The Future of Epidemic and Pandemic Vaccines to Serve Global Public Health Needs.
Farlow A., Torreele E., Gray G., Ruxrungtham K., Rees H., Prasad S., Gomez C., Sall A., Magalhães J., Olliaro P., Terblanche P.
This Review initiates a wide-ranging discussion over 2023 by selecting and exploring core themes to be investigated more deeply in papers submitted to the Vaccines Special Issue on the "Future of Epidemic and Pandemic Vaccines to Serve Global Public Health Needs". To tackle the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, an acceleration of vaccine development across different technology platforms resulted in the emergency use authorization of multiple vaccines in less than a year. Despite this record speed, many limitations surfaced including unequal access to products and technologies, regulatory hurdles, restrictions on the flow of intellectual property needed to develop and manufacture vaccines, clinical trials challenges, development of vaccines that did not curtail or prevent transmission, unsustainable strategies for dealing with variants, and the distorted allocation of funding to favour dominant companies in affluent countries. Key to future epidemic and pandemic responses will be sustainable, global-public-health-driven vaccine development and manufacturing based on equitable access to platform technologies, decentralised and localised innovation, and multiple developers and manufacturers, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). There is talk of flexible, modular pandemic preparedness, of technology access pools based on non-exclusive global licensing agreements in exchange for fair compensation, of WHO-supported vaccine technology transfer hubs and spokes, and of the creation of vaccine prototypes ready for phase I/II trials, etc. However, all these concepts face extraordinary challenges shaped by current commercial incentives, the unwillingness of pharmaceutical companies and governments to share intellectual property and know-how, the precariousness of building capacity based solely on COVID-19 vaccines, the focus on large-scale manufacturing capacity rather than small-scale rapid-response innovation to stop outbreaks when and where they occur, and the inability of many resource-limited countries to afford next-generation vaccines for their national vaccine programmes. Once the current high subsidies are gone and interest has waned, sustaining vaccine innovation and manufacturing capability in interpandemic periods will require equitable access to vaccine innovation and manufacturing capabilities in all regions of the world based on many vaccines, not just "pandemic vaccines". Public and philanthropic investments will need to leverage enforceable commitments to share vaccines and critical technology so that countries everywhere can establish and scale up vaccine development and manufacturing capability. This will only happen if we question all prior assumptions and learn the lessons offered by the current pandemic. We invite submissions to the special issue, which we hope will help guide the world towards a global vaccine research, development, and manufacturing ecosystem that better balances and integrates scientific, clinical trial, regulatory, and commercial interests and puts global public health needs first.