The gripping impact of COVID-19 is greatly felt by every country in the world. The pandemic has also revealed the stark difference in access to quality healthcare in various regions. In line with yesterday’s World Health Day theme ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’ we were inspired to highlight this poignant issue. Making adequate healthcare accessible for everyone can only be realised through international partnerships. The COVAX roll out of the Janssen vaccine is an example of how this could be achieved.
Communities with a lack of access to quality healthcare have been hard hit by the pandemic. Strict distancing measures are also difficult to impose in poorer neighbourhoods which are often densely populated. Furthermore, the restrictions placed to contain the spread of the pandemic adversely affect the local economies as well as people’s wellbeing.
The inequality caused by the pandemic is not only unfair, in many ways it is avoidable. By providing access to quality health services at the point of need, we could make major strides in prevention and treatment. That requires cooperation on a global scale.
The Netherlands advocates forming international partnerships to address health-related issues, especially during this global emergency. This way, everyone – regardless of their background, gender, race, occupation and age – can get access to quality health services.
Thankfully, a number of partnerships and collaborations have taken place and enabled rapid development of several vaccines and international initiatives like COVAX to distribute them in less wealthy countries.
Single-dose result of collaboration
The Janssen vaccine was developed through international collaboration and Dutch innovation. It was developed by Janssen Vaccines in Leiden, the Netherlands, part of a subsidiary of American pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. In 2018, the Vaccines Launch Facility was opened in Leiden to enable the production of different kinds of vaccines quickly and cost-effectively.
Last month, the European Medicines Agency added the Janssen vaccine to its list of safe and effective emergency tools against COVID-19. Distribution of this latest vaccine could start in the next few weeks.
The Janssen vaccine only requires a single dose and can be kept at regular refrigerator temperatures. This means people won’t need to visit a vaccination facility twice, which may be difficult for those who live in remote areas. Also, no expensive, ultra-cold storage is required for maintaining the vaccine's efficacy.
Innovative health solutions for all
Combatting health disparity in the world’s different regions calls for international collaboration to share knowledge, expertise and data. It requires a mindset geared towards finding innovative solutions that are achievable, implementable and available to all.
As the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus puts it:
“Every new, safe and effective tool against COVID-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic. But the hope offered by these tools will not materialise unless they are made available to all people in all countries. I urge governments and companies to live up to their commitments and to use all solutions at their disposal to ramp up production, so that these tools become truly global public goods, available and affordable to all, and a shared solution to the global crisis.”
COVAX is a global initiative set up by the WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to distribute COVID-19 vaccines fairly. It is gearing up for a full-scale roll out of the Janssen corona vaccine. In doing so, COVAX and Janssen could resolve many of the issues that arise from distributing vaccines in countries with low and middle-income needs.
COVAX has ordered 500 million doses of the Janssen vaccine, which will be delivered to regions impacted by COVID-19 to different degrees. The deployment of the Janssen vaccine will be free of the limitations faced by other vaccines which are unable to meet the requirements of certain regions.
In the spirit of building a fairer and healthier world, it is crucial that we take this as an example of how we can solve global challenges together. Through joint innovations and resilience, we can beat COVID-19 together!