Washington D.C., 21 April 2023.- The Government of Canada and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) are collaborating to strengthen manufacturing capacities to increase the safe and timely access to vaccines in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Through C$ 15 million (US$ 11.1 million) funding provided by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), PAHO will reinforce its current work to enhance the existing regional vaccine production capacities, including the manufacturing of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the severe impact of unequal access to vaccines and other health technologies,” PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, said. “We thank Canada for supporting PAHO in this effort to expand and develop regional production capacities for medical products - an objective that is at the heart of our strategy to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and a key step towards achieving universal access to health.”
Dr. Barbosa discussed the collaboration during a visit to PAHO headquarters by Mr. Jason Tolland, Director General for South America and Inter-American Affairs at GAC.
“Canada is looking forward to the implementation of its $15M support to PAHO’s COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Platform to strengthen vaccine production capacities in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Mr. Tolland said. “Canada is committed to addressing barriers to equitable access of vaccines by supporting regional manufacturing initiatives in low- and middle-income countries. We recognize the enormous potential of initiatives that promote local ownership and enable regions to address their own needs, not only for COVID-19 but also for other diseases.”
The Latin American and Caribbean region imports six times more pharmaceuticals than it exports, leaving it vulnerable to fluctuations in global supply, particularly during emergencies. During the first years of the pandemic, severe shortages of COVID-19 vaccines heightened the need to rapidly increase regional production.
The new initiative supported by the Government of Canada will promote activities to foster an enabling environment for regional vaccine production, including the promotion of greater coordination across countries and public and private partners, and the strengthening of national regulatory systems and policies.
The project will support PAHO’s Regional Platform for Advancing the Production of Vaccines and Other Health Technologies for COVID-19 in the Americas, including ongoing work with the mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer Program. This multilateral collaboration by the World Health Organization, the Medicines Patent Pool and other partners aims to facilitate mRNA vaccine manufacturing technology transfer to low- and middle-income countries. Currently, it includes two institutions in the region, Sinergium Biotech of Argentina and the Institute of Technology in Immunobiologicals Bio-Manguinhos of Brazil.
In the next two years, PAHO will assist Bio-Manguinhos in planning and implementing clinical trials for vaccine development and will support Sinergium Biotech in technology transfer and the acquisition of necessary equipment for vaccine production.
The organization will produce a guide for the establishment of vaccine manufacturing pilot facilities, including key inputs for the development of business plans, technical brochures, and equipment and supply needs.
PAHO is also working on the selection of a regional training center and is developing a tool to assess country readiness for vaccine development, as well as conducting several studies on topics such as COVID-19 mRNA vaccine patents in the region, and health technology production value chain.
Canada’s overall support to boosting manufacturing capacities for vaccines and medicines in low- and middle income countries was announced last year by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the G20 Summit. It adds to the wider support provided by Canada since 2021 to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines for populations in situations of vulnerability in the Americas through two contributions of C$ 50 million and C$ 45 million, delivered to PAHO in 2021 and 2023, respectively.
In the past years, PAHO has assisted 37 countries and territories in increasing access to COVID-19 vaccines, including in the development and implementation of national plans for their deployment and use. PAHO has also supported 32 countries and territories in expanding cold chain storage and transportation capacities, mainstreaming gender equality in all its work.
As part of these efforts, 13 countries have implemented activities with a specific focus on gender and ethnicity, including actions to bring vaccines to remote communities. These included workshops and knowledge dialogues to identify local perceptions about vaccines, explain the benefits of vaccines to communities, and empower women, girls, Indigenous and Afro-descendant people and LGBT groups to communicate effectively about this issue through science-based and culturally appropriate content.