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).
Washington, D.C., 14 January 2013 (PAHO/WHO) – The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, ongoing outbreaks of H5N1 influenza, and the growing burden of seasonal influenza epidemics have highlighted the need for countries around the world to have equitable access to flu vaccines. To advance toward this goal, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines that seeks to promote research and development, increase vaccine use, and improve production capacity for influenza vaccines.
This week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, is hosting a workshop on business modeling for sustainable influenza vaccine manufacturing. The Jan. 14-16 workshop brings together representatives of national immunization programs, regulatory authorities and vaccine makers from more than 28 WHO member countries.
The workshop is co-sponsored by WHO and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) to promote the creation of regionally-based, independent and sustainable vaccine production capacity in developing countries through capacity building and technology transfer. The workshop is the sixth of a series that began in 2010 as part of the Global Action Plan.
Specific topics covered in the workshop include the economic characteristics of vaccines and vaccination, business models and principles of sustainability, the complexity of the vaccine production system, attracting investments and generating revenue, the impact of technology and vaccine production methods on business opportunities and strategies. Other subjects include innovative models that strive to meet investment demands while addressing national and regional public health needs; the role of national regulatory authorities in vaccine commercialization, licensing and innovation; the role and impact of networks; and the role of national and regional planning for influenza pandemic preparedness.
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In 2012, great progress has been made in the complex area of anti-tuberculosis (TB) drug management. For many Latin American and Caribbean countries, this presents a huge challenge, involving coordination between the National Tuberculosis Program, PAHO’s country office and Procurement office, the Regional TB Program, the Regional Green Light Committee (rGLC), the Global Drug Facility and the Strategic Fund.
Thanks to the support provided by the USAID Umbrella Grant, two training activities for professionals from priority countries were held in 2012 in order to confront this challenge in the Region. First, the Workshop on anti-TB medicine management with an emphasis on second-line drugs was held in Belize City in April 2012, where training was provided to 25 professionals from 12 countries: Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay.
Prior to the workshop, a draft tool was developed and introduced for the professionals to use in better planning their needs of first and second-line drugs. This event was an opportunity for the country participants to exchange experiences, problems and solutions to the complex problem of drug procurement and stock management. Following the orientation and support provided by the Strategic Fund and Procurement department at the training, the process of drug purchasing is improving after the workshop. The final version of the tool is under revision and development and will be implemented soon, as it will be extremely useful for countries in continuing their progress.
Training was also conducted on quality control of anti-tuberculosis medicines for ten professionals from Official Medicine Control Laboratories of five priority countries, hosted by the Laboratory of Uruguay in September 2012. This activity has helped to improve the performance of the laboratories of quality control through a TB drug, promoted the use of GLP following the WHO recommendations in the series of technical reports, no. 957, 2010, and increased communication and exchange of information between the official medicine control laboratories
In addition to training efforts, the rGLC, with Secretariat in PAHO/WHO, has provided key support throughout the year to improve the quality of drug management through continuous technical assistance to MDR-TB priority countries and supervision of the different steps involved in effective drug procurement.
These combined efforts have led to improved coordination among the NTPs, laboratories for quality control, and departments of drug management of the Ministries of Health, and to a better understanding of the importance of drug management to avoid stock outs and drugs of bad quality. PAHO/WHO will continue interventions aimed towards improving access to quality anti-tuberculosis medications for all TB patients in the Region.
Areas of Work Project of Medicines and Health Technologies
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization