The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) is working on two fronts so that the vaccines against covid-19 produced at the Institute of Technology in Immunobiology (Bio-Manguinhos) can reach other countries, said today (18) the president of the foundation, Nísia Trindade Lima.
Low vaccination coverage against the disease in poor countries is a matter of concern for international health authorities and scientists, as the high circulation of the virus among unvaccinated populations may continue to claim lives and produce new variants of concern.
The sociologist explained that Fiocruz is in contact with AstraZeneca and the World Health Organization so that the recombinant covid-19 vaccine, produced in Bio-Manguinhos, can be used in other countries. The production of the vaccine in Brazil is the result of a partnership between the foundation and the European pharmaceutical company, which has resulted in technology order and technology transfer agreements.
“In the short term, it is possible that the recombinant covid-19 vaccine, which is the result of the agreement with AstraZeneca, will also be used internationally, in other countries. We are in the process of obtaining a license for emergency use, and this is required by the World Health Organization. And we are also in contact with AstraZeneca for this purpose,” said Nísia.
The president of Fiocruz also clarified that in the long term, Bio-Manguinhos researchers are working on the development of their own messenger RNA vaccine, the same technological platform used in the Pfizer immunizer. This research led to the choice of Bio-Manguinhos, last September, alongside an Argentinian laboratory, as hub of the World Health Organization in Latin America for this technology.
“The vaccine is in a preclinical phase, and the tests have not yet been carried out with population groups, as it should be. We are trying to speed up this process as much as possible and, soon, we hope to have a well-defined timetable,” said Nísia. “It is a less immediate line, but it is equally important, given the possibility of annual vaccination and support for countries around the world and our continent.”
The agreement with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which represents WHO in the Americas, provides that the vaccine to be developed will be subject to a WHO prequalification process, in which the highest international standards will be required to ensure its quality, safety and effectiveness. . Once approved, the vaccine will be offered to PAHO member states and territories on an equitable basis through its revolving fund.
Researchers recently traveled to South Africa to meet their peers from hub WHO on the subject on the African continent. Sharing knowledge can help speed up this process, said the president of Fiocruz, who believes that the pandemic has left as a learning experience the need to decentralize vaccine production, so that the benefits of science reach more of people.
“Mastering technology and being autonomous, health being also an important economic factor, is fundamental for countries. This is what will ensure access, and this learning can be used for other emergencies. We must not only look at the immediate”.
Fiocruz is already self-sufficient in the production of the covid-19 vaccine since it came to dominate the production technology of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (IFA) of the immunizer, developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. API is the most important input in the formulation of vaccines, and its production depends on an innovative technology called viral vector, in which an adenovirus (cold virus) is used to carry the genetic information of SARS-CoV -2 which will make our immune system prepare against covid-19.
The foundation’s president expects production capacity to reach 180 million doses per year, with a peak capacity of around 22 million doses per month. For 2022, 105 million doses of vaccine have already been contracted by the Ministry of Health for the National Vaccination Program (PNI).
Nísia believes it is possible for the country to become self-sufficient in the production of booster doses, adding the foundation’s efforts to those of the Butantan Institute. For this, however, more research is needed involving all age groups.
“It is possible, but we always have to look at what the results of studies will be in different age groups. All these statements have to be adjusted over time. What can be said with certainty is a self-sufficiency and a production capacity that will reach approximately 180 million doses per year, so with this we can, yes, guarantee the protection of our society and our population, even more so given the participation of other vaccines”.
The president of Fiocruz also recalled the foundation’s participation in the genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in Brazil. The Laboratory of Respiratory Viruses and Measles of the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz (IOC/Fiocruz) is a national reference in this work, which takes place in a network with other laboratories coordinated by the Ministry of Health.
Regarding the variant called Deltacron, because it combines the genetic characteristics of the Ômicron and Delta variants, Nísia pointed out that it has not been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization so far.
“There is no reason to panic. There is always a need to monitor, to be careful and to exercise caution,” he said. “The indications so far, due to the characteristics of this varying, specify that it must have the same response as Ômicron in relation to the vaccine, therefore, the vaccines that we have protect against serious cases.And, as everything indicates so far, what has been verified , is that its diffusion is not done at the speed with which the Ômicron variant did it”.