Excellencies, colleagues, friends, and supporters of IVI, thank you for attending this year’s State Forum, an annual gathering for IVI’s member states and partner countries to learn more about IVI’s recent efforts in infectious disease research and vaccine R&D, and to create a platform for dialogue and future collaboration.
Thank you to Professor VijayRaghavan and Dr. Kwon for their warm congratulatory remarks and thank you to Prof Baik Lin Seong and Director Sai Prasad for excellent keynote speeches to guide the direction of today’s forum. We’re also very grateful to our state party representatives for sharing your countries’ priorities for vaccines and vaccination and reflecting on how IVI’s capabilities can be of service to the international community.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put critical gaps in vaccine manufacturing and accessibility on the global agenda, and it has never been clearer that building capacity at all stages of disease prevention and pandemic preparedness—at local, regional, and global levels—is a priority for the safety and wellness of people and societies everywhere.
Our global response to a global pandemic also reflects on our ability to work together. Addressing these gaps, building up capacities, and committing to vaccine equity are essential to bringing COVID-19 under control.
As of today, nearly 50% of the world’s population have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, a testament to extraordinary resources dedicated to vaccine research, and innovations in vaccine science and manufacturing. The steady increase of this number indicates our global commitment to COVID-19 control; however, a stark disparity in the global distribution of these doses only promises that COVID-19 will continue to spread in some parts of the world, and therefore everywhere.
Nearly 80% of all COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries, with less than 3% of doses administered in low-income countries. This divide highlights a crisis of equity and access that is manifest in the grim tally of infections and deaths, has cost the global economy trillions of dollars, and has created a biological crisis — a vicious cycle of variants and outbreaks that may one day yield a variant that will be resistant to immune responses induced by current vaccines and by previous infection. We cannot let this occur. We must vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible and prepare additional doses for boosters and variants.
Making safe and effective vaccines accessible to all countries regardless of income level is a necessity, and IVI priority, and must be a shared undertaking.
As many of our country representatives have pointed out, there are complex challenges to producing sufficient supplies of vaccine and rolling them out at an unprecedented scale. We are faced with supply shortages, bi-lateral deals that undermine the efforts of equitable solutions like COVAX, restricted exports, limited production capacity for both materials and trained personnel, and lack of infrastructure for vaccine delivery.
We’ve heard from our state party representatives that there are needs for training and capacity-building to strengthen health systems; more robust disease surveillance to support evidence-based policies; cold-chain infrastructure to safely and efficiently deliver vaccines; compelling strategies to connect to the public, build trust, and communicate accurate vaccine information while countering misinformation and hesitation.
Since the onset of the pandemic, IVI’s work with COVID-19 has spanned nearly the full spectrum of our capabilities as a research institute and product development organization. We supported the establishment of the WHO international standard for anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody as well as the Korea standard and reference panel, which are essential for analyzing clinical samples; we are conducting pre-clinical studies for 11 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates and clinical studies for 5; conducting one Phase I/II clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate and Phase III trials for SK bioscience and Sanofi’s vaccine candidates, as well as post efficacy studies for Sinopharm and Clover.
As the world’s only international organization dedicated to the discovery, development, and delivery of vaccines for global health, IVI remains committed to mobilizing cooperation between the public and private sectors to make progress on these goals, and to make available safe, effective, and affordable vaccines to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases in low- and middle-income countries.
As George Bickerstaff, Chairperson of IVI’s Board of Trustees, remarked earlier: IVI is currently developing its next 5-year strategy, and a key component of the strategy is maximizing IVI’s function as an international organization and deepening our relationships with state parties and other stakeholders.
We believe that it is essential to our governance to incorporate the voices of our member states and other stakeholders. This belief is at the core of our annual State Forum, and today’s dialogue will hopefully be a meaningful step forward for greater engagement in the future.
To our non-member states in observance who graciously joined us today: we hope you come away with a better understanding of IVI and how we work with our state parties to secure a safer and healthier future for all. We invite you to join us in our vision of a world free of vaccine-preventable disease.
A livestream of the 2021 IVI State Forum is available here.