The World Health Organization is setting up a facility in South Korea to provide drug manufacturing training in poorer countries to increase local production, fight chronic diseases and improve health. preparing for the next global health crisis.
Officials from the WHO and other multilateral institutions have warned for the past two years of a significant inequity in access to tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic, particularly vaccines. Health experts have said the uneven distribution of vaccines around the world is largely due to a lack of trained personnel and the concentration of vaccine manufacturing in wealthy countries.
The South Korean training center will provide technical and practical training in the production of a range of pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and cancer treatments, the WHO said on Wednesday.
Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, said the establishment of the training center was a “backup plan for the next pandemic”.
Vaccine access programs set up to bring shots to poorer countries, such as the WHO-backed Covax initiative, have accused wealthier countries of hoarding doses and criticized the lack of transparency in the vaccine. vaccine makers’ order fulfillment – a charge the companies have denied.
In Africa, the world’s poorest continent, 83% of the population has yet to receive a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the WHO said. Rich countries have rolled out more Covid boosters than the total number of all doses administered so far in poorer countries.
“One of the main obstacles to successful technology transfer in low- and middle-income countries is the lack of skilled labor and weak regulatory systems,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief executive of WHO. He added that developing these skills would ensure “that they [poorer nations] no longer having to wait at the end of the line”.
Last year, the WHO set up a center in South Africa dedicated to technology transfer to help poorer countries produce mRNA vaccines, both for Covid and potentially other diseases. A number of countries, including Argentina and Brazil, have already received mRNA technology from the hub. The health body was expanding the transfer to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Serbia and Vietnam, he said.
Swaminathan told the Financial Times that the WHO “wants to empower countries to improve their research and development and manufacturing capabilities, taking advantage of new technologies like mRNA, which have potential far beyond Covid vaccines”.
Mariangela Simao, WHO’s deputy director-general for access to medicines, pointed out that the hub in South Korea was also crucial for the treatment of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, in poorer countries.
“We will strive to help low- and middle-income countries build their bioproduction capacities so that together we can pave the way to a safer world in the next pandemic,” said Kwon Deok-chul, Minister of South Africa. Korean Health and Wellness. .