A framework proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) would strengthen laboratories and surveillance, and foster partnership contributions from the pharma industry to protect against seasonal and pandemic influenza.
Under the new guidelines, national influenza laboratories and industry partners from both the developed and developing world will have clearly defined roles and obligations to help improve access to essential vaccines, antivirals and diagnostics kits - especially in low-income countries that often lack their own manufacturing capacity.
The WHO claims the new agreement provides a fairer solution to the way the world deals with flu pandemics.
“This has been a long journey to come to this agreement,” said Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, “but the end result is a very significant victory for public health. It has reinforced my belief that global health in the 21st century hinges on bringing governments and key stakeholders like civil society and industry together to find solutions.”
The WHO’s new framework suggests significant investments will need to be made to make sure supplies are available at the time of a pandemic, with the proposed increase in production capacity demanding an amount “over and above what the suggested pandemic influenza preparedness (PIP) endowment would cover.”
According to the WHO $690m (€484m) is needed over the next five years to buy vaccines for 138m people living in countries either unable to produce their own vaccines, or lacking the finances to buy them. During a pandemic surge, the figure could rise to $1.1tn (€771m).
Eduardo Pisani, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), said consultations between the WHO working group and IFPMA representatives had been helpful in the “fine tuning of the framework.”
“The research based pharmaceutical industry sought to engage constructively in the process, conscious of our industry’s responsibility,” he said.
“We intended to find workable solutions as the basis for a collaborative commitment to addressing the challenge of pandemic influenza preparedness.”
The IFPMA said it made a commitment to the WHO to ensure vaccines and antivirals are available for developing countries in the event of a future pandemic.
During the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, vaccine IFPMA manufacturers donated 166m doses to meet the WHO target of 200m for developing countries.