COVID-19 Shows the Essential Role of Ongoing Health Care Innovation
Great progress had been made in the fight against COVID-19. To date, 32.9% of the world’s population is at least partially vaccinated. Still, the global community has a long way to go before everyone is protected. Continuing to prioritize and support innovation to identify effective treatments, vaccines or boosters, and furthering our understanding of variants, remains critical to the global response.
The Latest: Vaccination Efforts in Southeast Asia
As of July 2021, sixteen vaccines are authorized and being distributed across the globe. Southeast Asian countries are vaccinating their populations through a variety of sources, including participation in global partnerships like COVAX, agreements with other nations and direct agreements with biopharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Unfortunately, roadblocks still stand in the way of securing and delivering vaccines across the region. In Southeast Asia, as in many parts of the world, there is a noticeable divide in vaccine uptake between countries. In Singapore, for example, 48% of the population is fully vaccinated, whereas only 0.34% of Vietnam’s population is protected against the virus.
Global collaborations are working to address barriers and continue to be critical. Some examples of these partnerships include:
- Johnson & Johnson, in partnership with COVAX, donated of 3.24 million vaccines to the Philippines.
- A COVAX and AstraZeneca partnership allowed 332,000 vaccine doses to be delivered to Cambodia.
- Thailand received a donation of 1.54 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the United States.
Encouraging Continued Innovation
As countries across the region work to protect their populations, continued innovation and research and development for vaccines and treatment options is essential to protect communities, especially as we see the emergence of variants. Many countries across Southeast Asia rely on tourism for economic growth – so increased vaccination and the ability to treat COVID-19 cases is also important to protect local economies.
Over the past 18 months, the biopharmaceutical industry has shown how quickly it can innovate and respond to health crises, delivering treatments and vaccines more quickly than ever before. Prioritizing policies that support access to new treatments, more innovation and more efficient and effective health systems will help countries across Southeast Asia in both their response to COVID-19 and other health priorities.
In some countries, government policies around intellectual property (IP) and patents can limit or undermine incentives to invest in new treatments and cures for patients. Recently, some have also argued that removing obligations to protect IP for COVID-19 vaccine and treatments could increase global vaccination. In reality, IP protections have proven to be the foundation that has enabled efficient and innovative research and development.
Innovation shouldn’t stop once COVID-19 vaccines become broadly available to patients, especially in the face of new virus variants. Additional vaccines and treatments will further protect communities. The current pipeline holds great promise, including the potential for vaccine nasal sprays, one-shot boosters, respiratory preventive products and self-administering vaccines.
Policies that support innovation, investment in R&D and incentives to develop new treatments and cures are as important today as they were at the start of the pandemic.