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Vaccine nationalism strengthens viruses and poses deadly risks for all involved.
We are social animals and have survived many thousands of generations through the hallmarks of civilization: delayed gratification and cooperative structures. Priority access to medicines on a national basis, paradoxically, increases risk for all. I write against the backdrop of an outbreak of H5N1 with a 56% mortality rate (1). It’s understandable to seek to minimize risk to one’s own citizens. Collaterally cultivating longer outbreaks in other countries (through absence of access to vaccines), however, allows microbes freedom and resources to evolve into stronger threats for everyone. According to Jane True, VP, mRNA Commercial Strategy & Innovation and Global Pandemic Security Lead at Pfizer, vaccine nationalism “closes down options and reduces global conversation in general” and goes on to ask “can we just agree we’ll have better odds working across borders next time vs. mostly within? The effectiveness of a future global response increases when resources are more efficiently deployed.”
Ascertaining pandemic planning priorities, I intend to question several leaders on how they weigh surveillance versus manufacturing agility and capacity, against infection control or understanding the mechanism of transmission, and so forth. I will report back in a longer format article. Johnson & Johnson’s Blue Knight cooperation with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) prioritizes investment in novel pandemic countermeasure startup companies, while Abbott’s Pandemic Defense Coalition strengthens surveillance efforts by identifying novel environmental viruses, as the main order of business.
For his part Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at FDA, says, “The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at FDA looks forward to collaborating with academic and industrial partners to link together the manufacturing and development technologies that will facilitate the rapid deployment of mRNA vaccines whenever needed to address existing and emerging infectious threats” (2).
We now have a recent store of knowledge and experience to better prepare ourselves for what comes next. Vaccine nationalism should not play an instrumental part going forward.
1. WHO. Human Interaction with Avian Influenza A(H5) Viruses. Avian Influenza Weekly Update Number 895. WHO Western Pacific Region. May 12, 2023.
2. Marks, P. Comments in Email Correspondence with Pharmaceutical Technology. May 23, 2023.
Chris Spivey is editorial director for BioPharm International
Vol. 36, No. 6
When referring to this article, please cite it as C. Spivey. Vaccine Nationalism Escalating Risk. BioPharm International 2023 36 (6).