29 August 2020

Leading experts, officials, and researchers participating in an E-Symposium organized by TRENDS Research & Advisory on Wednesday (August 26, 2020) stressed the need for collective global efforts to develop a vaccine to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the E-Symposium – A Global Anti-Covid-19 Treatment: Between Development Efforts & Regulatory Protocols – they maintained that efforts made in different countries so far appear to be disjointed and combining them will yield the desired results.

“WHO Secretariat and the Director-General have reached out to various partners who are in the COVAX, and for the moment, we have responses from more than 170 countries interested in being in the COVAX,” said Dr. Melita Vujnovic, Head of Russian Federation’s WHO Office.

Vujnovic said parallel initiatives are going on, raising the concerns that the vaccine availability and affordability might affect the principle of leaving nobody behind. “We are working on that, we are advocating, and it will be as good if the member states stick to their word and work with us, including inviting all the producers to make the vaccine and bring the pandemic under control,” Vujnovic said.

Vujnovic also stressed that depoliticizing and bringing solidarity in the equitable distribution of vaccines will be critical. “WHO is not the police force. It is not the Security Council. It will be critical for the member states to stand behind strongly and manage the solidarity issues, especially for the countries that cannot afford it,” she said.

Speaking at the e-symposium, Dr. Jill Horowitz, Executive Director of Strategic Operations, Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at the Rockefeller University, the United States, said they have isolated antibodies from people who donated their plasma. “We will file the FDA approval over the next couple of months and start studies on human subjects,” she said.

Dr. Ziad Yagoub Najjar, a former adviser to the WHO on health promotion in developing countries, moderated the session.

David Zigdon, CEO of MigVax, MIGAL Galilee Research Institute, Israel, said their vaccine research has been interdisciplinary from the conceptual phase. “We already have two vaccines in the market. We have developed both the active and the passive vaccine based on chicken antibodies,” he said.

Dr. Nawal Al Kaabi, Chief Medical Officer, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, UAE, and Chair of the SEHA infection Control Committee, narrated the UAE’s Covid-19 vaccine phase III trial experience. She said that the UAE is testing two inactive strands of the virus.

“We are trying to capture every possible side effect. We are collaborating with emergency doctors and have a hotline for any concerns,” she said. According to her, collaboration across sectors and generous support by the government are the project highlights.

“We have managed to open one of the largest clinical sites in the Middle East, and possibly in the world, with over 1,200 volunteers. We have managed to recruit 118 nationalities in terms of the volunteer demographics,” said Dr. Al Kaabi, adding that field hospitals running across the UAE have strengthened teamwork and dedication.

Andrew Elnatan, Senior Director Regulatory Affairs, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in the US, said every vaccine should cause an immune response, which can differ across different stakeholders. Elnatan said there is a lot of collaboration between the FDA, WHO, and the EMA, regarding regulations for Phase III of the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to Elnatan, an intensified focus on international collaboration has been a good aspect of the pandemic. “This has allowed the FDA to also follow the vaccine development in other countries more closely, given the US vaccine market’s regulatory constraints.”

“The potential for profit and benefiting from human tragedy remains the problematic aspect of vaccine development,” he said.

The E-Symposium was live-streamed on the TRENDS YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/TrendsRA and other social media platforms.

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