Washington, D.C., 18 January 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — Representatives of vaccine manufactures and producers of blood products joined a group of health and regulatory authorities this week in Washington to explore ways of increasing vaccine production capacity in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Jan. 16-17 meeting was hosted by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

The meeting sought to build on progress toward universal access to vaccines and blood products in the Americas by fostering collaboration among producers, national health authorities and other actors to share information and combine efforts to strengthen national capacity for the development, production and quality control of these products.

"We have brought together people from ministries of health, regulatory authorities, governmental organizations like PAHO, and producers to discuss an important subject: how to increase accessibility of vaccines and blood products in our region, which is a priority for us," said PAHO Assistant Director Dr. Socorro Gross. "This is an important step forward for our region toward a more productive dialog amongst all actors—government, civil society, health services and organizations such as ours in access to vaccines and blood products."

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have been leaders in immunization, with high levels of vaccine coverage and successful elimination or control of vaccine-preventable diseases, and a strong record of adopting newly available vaccines. PAHO/WHO has contributed to this success through technical cooperation, initiatives such as Vaccination Week in the Americas, and through the PAHO Revolving Fund for vaccine procurement.

Further progress in this area, however, faces a number of challenges. Several essential vaccines, including the oral polio, yellow fever and DPT vaccines, are of declining interest to pharmaceutical companies, which in many cases have discontinued their production. In addition, newer vaccines have tended to be expensive, due in part to low levels of competition. Increasing capacity within the region's countries to produce vaccines could help overcome these challenges.

In this context, participants in the Jan. 16-17 meeting analyzed the political, financial, technical, and regulatory obstacles to vaccine production and commercialization in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean and discussed ways to address these obstacles through cooperation.

The workshop on "Strengthening regional capacities for vaccine and hemo-derivatives manufacturing to meet the needs of the Americas" followed a related meeting, also at PAHO/WHO headquarters, on "Business modeling for sustainable influenza vaccine manufacturing" on Jan. 14-16, co-sponsored by WHO and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS).