Cristina Azevedo (Fiocruz News Agency)
By means of the Immunobiological Technology Institute (Bio-Manguinhos), Fiocruz has been selected by the Ministry of Health to represent Brazil at the BRICS Center of Vaccine Research and Development. Launched this Tuesday (March 22) by the group of countries made up by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the goal of the initiative is to share experiences, information and training, so as to strengthen the productive capacity of the participating countries to make vaccine access more equitable.
A ceremony organized by China was attended by representatives of the chosen institutions, including the president of Fiocruz, Nísia Trindade Lima (image: disclosure)
The online cerimony was organized by China, which is currently occupying the pro-tempore presidency of the group, and was attended by the Ministries of Health of the countries of the bloc, such as Marcelo Queiroga, and by representatives of the institutions selected, including Fiocruz president, Nísia Trindade Lima. The proposal was approved unanimously at the BRICS summit in September last year, and it aims not only to provide a response to the difficulties faced by the countries in their fight against COVID-19, but also to increase surveillance and to prevent future pandemics.
Together, these countries aim to establish a cooperation between their factories and to define standards, so as to avoid production bottlenecks that were commonplace in the pandemic. They will be sharing experiences, promoting the equitable distribution of vaccines as a global public good, and making sure developing countries have access to vaccines. The idea is to strengthen the capacity of bloc countries to control and prevent communicable diseases.
“Vaccines save lives, this is what we’ve seen in this pandemic that has had so much public health, economic and humanitarian impact in our contries. BRICS countries have been showing off their power, and today this power gains essential strength with the creation of this center”, said Lima.
Fiocruz president highlighted the importance of the alliance between these contries, stating that nothing blossoms without a history. She reminded the uadience that Fiocruz received Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine produced in China and that the first doses of the vaccine came from a laboratory in India - both countries are members of the bloc. She also stated that Fiocruz representatives attended a meeting in South Africa this month regarding a vaccine using messenger RNA platform. Fiocruz was selected by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a hub for Latin America, together with an Argentinian institution.
Lima thanked the Ministry of Health for inviting Bio-Manguinhos to be the national center of production for BRICS and mentioned that the Foundation has delivered about 160 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by means of the technology commissioning. “Today we are autonomous, as we have fully incorporated this technology”, she said.
Lima also highlighted the roles played by Fiocruz and the Butantan Institute, two government-run laboratories, in the mass vaccination against COVID-19 in Brazil. She also mentioned as challenges the need for more equitable access to the vaccine, the economic recovery of the countries, and preparation against future pandemics. “I believe that in addition to COVID-19 this center will play a crucial role in the sharing of knowledge, in technological development, and in the production of vaccines.”
Marcelo Queiroga highlighted the role played by the SUS and by the National Immunizations Plan in the fight against the pandemic in Brazil. At the event, the minister stated that “BRICS has a fundamental role to play in the promotion of fair and equitable access to vaccines at a global level”. He highlighted: “Brazil is reknowned for its installed production capacity regarding vaccines, in addition to prestigious research, development and innovation institutions. Centenary Oswaldo Cruz Foundation was indicated as a focal point in Brazil for the BRICS Center for Vaccine Research and Development”.
Bloc members highlighted their action in the pandemic. India, for instance, reminded the audience that it supplies more than 150 countries with vaccines. Chinese laboratory Sinovac, on the other hand, mentioned it has already supplied more that 2.8 billion doses of vaccines against Sars-CoV-2 to 56 countries. Together, BRICS countries account for about 40% of the world’s population.
Workshop and integrated surveillance
The launching was followed by the workshop on Vaccine Cooperation. Brazil was represented by members of the Ministry of Health, of Fiocruz, and of Butantan. Marco Krieger, vice-president for Production and Innovation in Health/ Fiocruz, highlighted the importance of genomic surveillance, which the Foundation has been carrying out since the beginning of the pandemic, and defended integrated surveillance. “This means we were able to demonstrate the dynamic of variants of concern and integrate this
information using a big data approach. It was therefore possible to evaluate its impact and rates of hospitalization and ICU beds occupation”, said Krieger. Another form of surveillance is observing the impact of variants and the immune response generated by the vaccine.
“The vaccine has shown high protection against severe cases. Even if we need to tweak them [to adapt them to new variants], we already have the technology incorporated to our portfolio”, said Krieger, referring to technologial incorporation for the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vice-president also mentioned messenger RNA vaccines. “This technology can be used not only for COVID-19, but also for traditional issues in our health system”.
Representing Bio-Manguinhos, director Maurício Zuma introduced the unit responsible for research and development of vaccines, biopharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests at the Foundation. Zuma highlighted the production of messenger RNA vaccines, as well as the construction of the Industrial Complex of Biotechnology in Health, in Santa Cruz, which is expected to be ready in 2025, resulting in a five-fold increase in the production capacity.
“The choice of Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz as Brazil’s representative at the new BRICS Center for Research and Development of Vaccines is the crowning of the Institute’s work as a strategic agency of the Economic-Industrial Complex, and makes it possible to establish new partnerships so we can overcome current and future public health challenges”, said Zuma. “We hope to contribute with our expertise to make sure the Center achieves its goal, declared today, of increasing the global offer of vaccines to populations that need them”, he added.