Vaccines as national security

Vaccines as national security

Experts reveal insights on Thailand’s vaccine plan and strategy at the 10th National Vaccine Conference

For over two years of Covid-19 pandemic, the National Vaccine Institute (NVI) has formulated many approaches and committed to disseminating accurate and reliable information for the general public. Currently, Thailand has many vaccines in the development process with animal and human trials.

In regards to Covid-19 vaccines, Thailand has considered many possibilities from day one, including conducting our own vaccine research to achieve maximum sustainability, seeking collaborations with many vaccine developers to gain technology transfers, and negotiating advance purchases of vaccines with several dealers. “Team Thailand” was formed to tackle the urgency of the situation with daily meetings during the early months of the spread. Moreover, Thailand was successful in conducting a mix and match vaccine dose early on, and the strategy was later backed and approved by the World Health Organization.

The NVI and World Health Organization (WHO) co-organized the “10th National Vaccine Conference” during March 16-18, 2022, under the theme “Vaccines: Tools for Sustainable Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases” in an online format to update on academic progress, communicate the direction of national vaccine development, and encourage knowledge and experience exchange.

Prof. Emeritus Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn,  M.D., Chairman of Mahidol University Council, gave a special keynote speech on “Vaccine Preparedness and Management in Thailand during the Covid-19 Pandemic,” saying: “Covid-19 won’t be the last pandemic. As a nation, Thailand needs a comprehensive vaccine plan from technology creation, technology transfer, and research centers to industrial-scale manufacturing facilities and human resource development. A self-reliant approach will secure our vaccine security both in normal times and times of crisis. Effective vaccines must be accessible to all Thais in an appropriate manner.”

The conference also welcomed international authorities to share knowledge on “Global Preparedness on Emerging Diseases: Epidemic and Vaccine Development”.

Jos Vandelaer, M.D., World Health Organization Representative to Thailand, said, “Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, an inclusive multidisciplinary global network has facilitated open global contributions and scientific debate with over 1,000 institutions and 3,000 researchers from 134 countries. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of multi-sectoral contributions in all areas of research, government funding with end-to-end alignment of donors and priorities, epidemiology-driven approach, and large trial platforms. Meanwhile, it also indicates the pitfalls, including lack of scaling up to capacity, economic fallout, nationalism and inequalities, and social disobedience due to inaccurate information.”

Melanie Saville, M.D., Executive Director of Vaccine Research and Development, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), shared about CEPI’s efforts to grow its vaccine research and development portfolio: “Our goal is to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable equitable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks. CEPI has made significant investments, and the portfolio reflects a global base of over 70 partnerships with life sciences organizations, focusing on end-to-end approaches and harmonizing assessment of vaccine data. Our challenging target is to develop a vaccine in 100 days, from pathogen identification to having a vaccine available for use.”

Jerome Kim, M.D., Director-General of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), said, “As a UN-chartered international organization, IVI has a unique status in the global vaccine community as an intermediary to have a synergistic, non-redundant relationship with other global health stakeholders and its missions. IVI provides translation and support services to accelerate vaccine development. Even though IVI didn’t have its own Covid-19 vaccines, it managed to contribute over a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine to COVAX, accounting for about 20 percent of the total.”

Lastly, a panel discussion featured three leading medical authorities on “Round Table Discussion: Vaccine Sustainability & Self-Reliance”.

Assoc. Prof. Prasobsri Ungthavorn, M.D., Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Member, shared that globalization makes pandemics more challenging: “With extensive cross-country travel, global pandemics are more severe than previous ones, let alone during war time. Therefore, we need a systemic, data-driven national strategy and roadmap to handle the situation in an effective way.”

Prof. Emeritus Pirom Kamolratanakul, M.D., Chairperson of Chulalongkorn University Council, said, “Vaccines are a crucial, cost-effective public health tool to prevent the spread of diseases, but Thailand still has to import over 90 percent of vaccines, facing difficulties in driving domestic vaccine production. Therefore, a legal approach will be effective to systematically and continuously support Thai vaccines, from research and production to quality assurance and distribution. The challenges, however, are weak collaboration, lack of multi-dimensional analyses especially business assessment, and a risk of unsustainable regulatory efforts when the situation turns back to the old normal”.

Suwit Wibulpolprasert, M.D., Vice Chair of International Health Policy Program Foundation (IHPF) and Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program Foundation (HITAP Fooundation), Thailand  said, “One of the most important factors is to build trust among all parties. Cooperation will be key to vaccine security, including effective procurement and storage and an international alliance that can provide vaccines to countries in need. Moreover, to be truly self-reliant, the government must support and fund local vaccine researchers and developers to make scalable production and a strong domestic market. Otherwise, the cost will be higher than that of bigger foreign corporations and we cannot compete”.

The success of the conference was reflected in the amount of information shared and updates on global and national perspectives on vaccine development for Covid-19 and other diseases as well as the fact that it attracted nearly 1,000 attendees over three days. The knowledge and experience exchange was exceptional, coming directly from global and national vaccine experts.

Additionally, the conference appraised attendees with a broad range of expertise, knowledge, and vital information. Experts joined regardless of their position, organization or employment status. The gathering accomplished its goal of fostering social interaction and disseminating information regarding vaccine innovation and technological advancements.

NVI wishes to express its heartfelt gratitude to all speakers and attendees for their participation as well as for providing feedback, comments, and responses that enable a better understanding of the vaccine sector. NVI believes that the outcomes of the conference will benefit communities worldwide and contribute to the progress of vaccine research and development.

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