Ciro Oiticica (Fiocruz News Agency)
Represented by its president, Nísia Trindade Lima, Fiocruz has been following the debates of the 75th World Health Assembly taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, from May 22 to May 28, with the theme Health for Peace, Peace for Health. The main decision-making agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), this space defines the global health agenda based on decisions, agreements and collaborations that will guide strategies for better health and well-being for the populations of the different countries. Parallel events also brought together health authorities from all over the world.
President of Fiocruz, Nísia Trindade Lima has been following the discussions of the 75th World Health Assembly
President Nísia Trindade Lima has been attending the Assemblies since 2017 and is celebrating the return to in-person meetings, this one being the first since the beginning of the pandemic. “This is a space in which crucial resolutions for global health are deliberated, and it is also home to bilateral meetings that only in-person conviviality can favor in terms of deepening conversations”, she said. Fiocruz is one of the reference institutions that compose the global health architecture. It has the singularity of a wide range of activities: research and development, specialized assistance and primary care, production of consumables and immunobiological products, education and training of professionals, and support to vulnerable populations.
Lima emphasized the fundamental messages of the Foundation at the event. “These are messages that highlight the importance of the CT&I, of permanent investments in this area, not only in pandemic times, because during the pandemic this was the basis that allowed for great responses to fight the crisis and, in particular, to the possibility of saving lives”, she explained. Another highlighted point was the importance of local production. “Technological autonomy is a crucial aspect and should be viewed as part of the health systems and its strengthening; in the case of Brazil, as part of the strengthening of SUS”, she said. The promotion of equity in access to innovation in health would, therefore, be a consequence of technological autonomy, as it implies more swiftness and capacity of response in the different regions of the world.
One of the parallel events attended by Fiocruz, represented by its president, was a meeting of ministers of the m-RNA vaccine technology transfer hub program of the WHO, organized by the Medicines Patents Pool, the Department of Science and Innovation of South Africa, and the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, with support of the WHO. The Immunobiological Technology Institute (Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz) was selected by the WHO/PAHO last September to be one of its regional hubs for the production of these vaccines. The Center aims at fighting global inequality in access to vaccines and to ensure sanitary security by improving the production capacity of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 in low-and medium-income countries. The Center was also conceived to share the development of other products, vaccines and treatments based on the mRNA technology.
Together with ministerial authorities, such as the WHO chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, and the Brazilian secretary for Health Surveillance, Arnaldo Medeiros, Lima once again stated the Foundation’s commitment to pursuing a local productive arrangement. “There is already an interaction with the Argentinian arm of the hub, coordinated by biopharmaceutical company Sinergium Biotech. The search for additional articulation with institutes and companies in the region is already underway for the supply chain involving critical consumables”, she said.
Secretary Arnaldo Medeiros emphasized the need to strengthen national health services as a more effective preparation for future sanitary emergencies. “Another crucial element is the expansion of national and regional productive capacities, based on the promotion of investments and technologies, also by means of technology transfer”, he added. Medeiros celebrated the choice of Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz as a hub for the production of mRNA vaccines. “Brazil wants to promote fair and equitable access to vaccines and other health products”.
Lima added that, beyond the regional perspective, a perspective from the Global South would also be necessary, with low- and medium-income countries included. The president mentioned the visit of professionals from Bio-Manguinhos to Afrigen, the South African hub, as well as the development, by Fiocruz, of one of the candidate vaccines, based on the mRNA platform. “We can share information on processes, as we recently did in South Africa, also including Fiocruz’s specific technology. We have different approaches, but a shared goal”, she defended.
The event consisted of two ministerial panels, moderated by Folly Bah Thibault, a journalist for Al Jazeera. The first was attended, in addition to Arnaldo Medeiros and Nísia Trindade Lima, by Stéphanie Seydoux, French ambassador for Global Health, Tamara Mawhinney, counseling minister and representative of the Canadian Mission at the United Nations, and Khaled Atef Abdel-Ghaffar, the Egyptian minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research.
The second panel was attended by Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, the Belgian ambassador at the UN Office, John-Arne Røttingen, Norwegian ambassador for Global Health, Joseph Phaahla, the South-African Minister of Health, and Petro Terblanche, director of South-African biotechnology company Afrigen, in addition to Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of the WHO.