NETHERLANDS — At the recent Second World Local Production Forum in The Hague, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced transformative initiatives aimed at enhancing local medicine and vaccine production, with a primary focus on underserved regions, particularly Africa.

Two groundbreaking endeavors took center stage: the Health Technology Access Pool (H-TAP) and a manufacturing support platform co-sponsored by the African Union.

The H-TAP represents a significant leap forward, aspiring to overcome the limitations encountered by its precursor, the COVID19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

Dr. Yukiko Nakatani, Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, highlighted that H-TAP is designed to expand beyond COVID products, encompassing a broader array of medicines and vaccines.

However, there is lingering skepticism about its efficacy in addressing the deficiencies observed in C-TAP.

The challenges faced by C-TAP were candidly outlined by Nakatani. Over the course of three years, only six license agreements for 15 health products were reached.

This sluggish response prompted a comprehensive review, leading to the development of a new technology access pool operating model scheduled to launch by the end of 2023. Stakeholder consultations will precede the model’s refinement and implementation.

Expressing concerns about IP barriers hindering local medicines production, a coalition of 30 medicines access organizations, including Oxfam, the People’s Vaccine Alliance, Unitaid, and Public Citizen, penned an open letter.

The letter underscored that initiatives without addressing intellectual property barriers would be akin to “building a bridge to nowhere.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, acknowledged the shortcomings of C-TAP, emphasizing the stark global health inequalities exposed by the pandemic.

The wake-up call spurred the creation of WHO’s mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa and a global training hub in biomanufacturing capacity in collaboration with South Korea.

The World Local Production Forum cast a spotlight on the longstanding challenges associated with local manufacturing, particularly in Africa.

It underscored the necessity for a diversified approach to address intellectual property barriers and facilitate effective local production.

New platform launched to support African manufacturers

Initiatives like the Health Products Manufacturing Support Platform, jointly launched by Unitaid and the African Union, aim to provide comprehensive technical assistance to African manufacturers across the entire health products manufacturing value chain.

This platform seeks collaboration with African manufacturers, R&D centers, and industry associations to address the imbalance where over 79% of African pharma products are imported, while Africa contributes only 3% to global production of medicines and vaccines.

The platform aims to foster an ecosystem for local manufacturing, focusing on training, knowledge transfer, and procurement preferences.

Despite commendable efforts by WHO, the African Union, and pharmaceutical companies, questions persist regarding the durability and sustainability of these initiatives.

Draft recommendations from the forum underscore the crucial components needed to stimulate local manufacturing.

This includes essential components, financial investments, skilled policymakers, and information on production capacity and market demand.

The draft also recommends the establishment of a network for synchronizing training resources and facilities, emphasizing the importance of addressing intellectual property barriers.

The emphasis on tackling IP barriers remains a critical aspect of building a robust ecosystem for local production.

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