The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect all countries equally, and access to vaccines remains scarce for lower-income countries. The U.S. and other world leaders need to more urgently address the disparity, said Liz Schrayer, President & CEO of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.
David Marchick, Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, agreed. There is a vacuum in capacity for vaccine manufacturing in the developing world, even as 11 billion vaccine doses are necessary for the world. Marchick explained how investing in biologics companies can help fill the production gap. One such company, Biological E Limited, developed a partnership to produce Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Vikram Paradkar, Executive Vice President of Biological E Limited, reminded the audience that vaccines are not a commodity, they are an essential product. His company’s new financing gives them the opportunity to produce vaccines closer to where they are most needed. Jeremy Konyndyk, Executive Director of the COVID Task Force for the U.S. Agency for International Development, highlighted U.S. efforts to vaccinate the world. Given its position and power, the U.S. must act as a leader and ensure equitable distribution. Only one-third of the world’s population is yet vaccinated, and COVAX is working to accelerate delivery of doses promised by the U.S.
Schrayer moved the conversation to ideas on how to narrow the infrastructure gap and how best to manufacture and distribute vaccines. Marchick suggested that, in order for the world to build back better, the pace of investment in developing countries needs to accelerate. For Paradkar, financial support gives India a seat at the global table. Konyndyk reminded the audience that we are not yet on track to meet our commitments, so expanding production is crucial.
Looking beyond COVID-19, Schrayer asked the panelists what it’s worth to get this right and how to ensure we avoid another pandemic in the future. Konyndyk highlighted a shared desire to return to normalcy, which won’t occur until the pandemic is defeated. Paradkar described the massive increase in vaccine manufacturing capacity and cross-border cooperation as a potential benefit to address future pandemics more quickly. Marchick expressed his hope that government entities will accept more risk and move more quickly to empower companies like Biological E Limited to save lives.
Because of the risk a small agency like DFC took, literally hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of people’s lives are going to be saved.
The pandemic has brought us to the forefront because we could deploy very large capacities.
America and world leaders need to step up—along with all of us who are not in government—when it comes to a global response to the global pandemic.
What’s working really well is that a lot of people are getting vaccinated—about a third of the world now is fully vaccinated. The problem is, that third of the world is not spread evenly.