A social science workshop jointly devised by UCL Anthropocene, Sarah Parker Remond Centre and Institute of Advanced Studies, with the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, KCL
Engineering Global Vaccine Equity, 14-15 June
Co-convened by Andrew Barry & Paige Patchin (Anthropocene/Sarah Parker Remond Centre/Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL) and Nele Jensen & Ann H. Kelly (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, KCL)
The workshop will comprise four informal sessions for academic and research staff to discuss ideas, followed by a public event summing up the two days of conversations.
The pace of COVID-19 vaccine development has been nothing short of remarkable. In under a year from when the genomic sequence of the novel coronavirus was made publicly available, millions have received one of severable viable candidates. Yet to date the distribution of vaccines has been highly uneven. The epidemiological threat of novel mutants and vaccine-evading super-variants emerging from unchecked transmission compounds the clear and catastrophic moral failure of denying immunisation to the world’s poorer populations. Multilateral initiatives to ensure wide-spread vaccine access such as Advance Market Commitments (AMC), pool procurement schemes and ‘fair’ vaccine allocation frameworks, have been bedevilled by logistical constraints, poorly articulated regulatory frameworks and protectionist geopolitics. To improve the resilience of global outbreak response and advance durable systems for preparedness, new models for vaccine R&D are urgently needed.
Bringing together expertise from across social sciences, political economy, law and public health, this workshop will re-consider the problem of vaccine equity from new and cross-cutting perspectives—how equity in the context of accelerated R&D has been conceived and responded to, what aspects of vaccine innovation have been neglected, and how these challenges can be addressed in the future. Shedding light on the linkages between vaccines, infrastructures, expertise and publics, it allows us to raise fundamental questions about our current models of global health innovation, including what kinds of vaccines should be produced, by whom and under what conditions.
14 June: Sign up here
Accelerating vaccine research and manufacturing (14 June, 2-3pm)
Ken Shadlen (LSE); Paige Paitchin (UCL); Rory Horner (Manchester); Penny Carmichael (UCL); Ann H Kelly (KCL). Chaired by Nele Jensen (KCL)
In response to the challenges of a series of epidemics and pandemics, international organisations and national governments have sought to both promote ‘emergency’ or accelerated vaccine development and vaccine equity. In this context, what is driving the acceleration of vaccine research? What are the specific – experimental, technological, digital, organizational, regulatory – means that are used to engender and facilitate ever-shorter R&D timelines? In how far do equity concerns feature as part of these efforts? Is it possible to both accelerate vaccine research and production and ensure global vaccine equity at the same time, or what might potential tensions between these two goals be? To what extent do novel vaccine platform technologies, such as mRNA and viral vector vaccines, also offer unique opportunities to ‘platform’ equity?
Vaccines, Economy and the Law (14 June, 3-4pm)
Hyo Yoon Kang (Kent); Valbona Muzaka (KCL); Lauren Paremoer (UCT); Vera Ehrenstein (UCL); Carlo Caduff (KCL), Sonja van Wichelen (University of Sydney). Chaired by Paige Paitchin (UCL)
Much attention has focused on the development of mechanisms for equitable vaccine allocation and distribution. At the same time, there is growing concern about the countervailing impact of vaccine nationalism, the implications of intellectual property claims, and the reproduction of postcolonial inequalities. In these circumstances, how is the problem of equity posed by those involved in global health R&D, including scientists, regulators, policymakers, activists, and researchers in the social sciences? What are the possibilities and pitfalls of proposed solutions, such as coordination, regulatory and financing mechanisms, IP waivers and flexibilities, and technology transfer? To what extent does COVID-19 pandemic put into question traditional models of biomedical R&D and the ‘push and pull’ mechanisms to promote it, and in how far do biomedical innovations, such as new technology platforms, themselves points towards possibilities for significant transformations of traditional R&D models?
15 June: Sign up here
A Global Biochemical Infrastructure? (15 June, 2-3 pm)
Steve Hinchliffe (Exeter); Andrew Barry (KCL); Richard Rottenburg (University of Witwatersrand); Claas Kirchhelle (UCD); Naomi Tousignant (UCL). Chaired by Ann H. Kelly (KCL)
Vaccine production and distribution demands a complex infrastructure, including the specialist equipment and materials, expertise in biochemical engineering, systems of monitoring, testing and quality control, and dedicated structures for the delivery of vaccines to dispersed populations. To what extent do the demands for equitable vaccine access foster the creation of new biochemical infrastructures? How far does the emergence of novel practices and financing of R&D allow reframing existing equity debates by ‘upstreaming’ equitable access into vaccine design and manufacturing processes? In what way have human bodies themselves become part of the biochemical infrastructure. And what would models of ‘indigenized equity’ from which to build global solidarity look like?
Future Equity (15 June, 3-4 pm)
Luisa Enria (LSHTM); Nele Jensen (KCL); Uli Beisel (FU Berlin); Sharifah Sekalala (University of Warwick); Sarah Green (University of Helsinki). Chaired by Andrew Barry (UCL)
Fuelled by interlocking amplifications of climate change, rapid urbanization, mass migration and conflict, and ongoing structural inequalities, the threat of global pandemics will only become ever more salient. The need to prepare for pandemic risk requires reimagining both the global economy and the local ecologies of vaccine manufacturing and research. What changes need to happen both to reduce the threat of pandemics on a similar scale, and to address the problem of vaccine equity?
Gustavo Matta (Fiocruz), Priti Patnaik (Geneva Health Files), Penny Carmichael (UCL), Hyo Yoon Kang (University of Kent). Chaired by Andrew Barry (UCL) and Paige Patchin (UCL)
In this final roundtable, we sum up the conclusions of the workshop and the answers to questions that have been addressed over the course of the two previous days. Is it possible to both accelerate vaccine research and production and ensure global vaccine equity at the same time, or what might potential tensions between these two goals be? How far do biomedical innovations, such as new technology platforms, themselves points towards possibilities for significant transformations of traditional R&D models? To what extent to the demands for equitable vaccine access foster the creation of new biochemical infrastructures? What changes need to happen both to reduce the threat of pandemics on a similar scale, and to address the problem of vaccine equity?