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CEPI launches COVAX Marketplace to match buyers and sellers of critical manufacturing supplies and speed up global access to COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and COVAX partners are launching an innovative ‘marketplace’ to accelerate the global production of COVID-19 vaccine doses for COVAX by matching suppliers of critical inputs with vaccine manufacturers who urgently need them to produce vaccines for fair and equitable distribution through COVAX. This initiative is a key deliverable of the COVAX Manufacturing Task Force, which is co-led by COVAX and industry partners [1].

In the past year unprecedented efforts by vaccine manufacturers and suppliers of vaccine components have aimed to triple previous annual vaccine output, scaling up to produce an estimated 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021 [2,3]. As a result of this historic scaling up, bottlenecks are affecting the global supply chain leading to acute shortages of vital supplies which are preventing COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers from operating at full capacity. This is delaying vaccine production and contributing to inequity.

The new COVAX Marketplace announced today is designed to address short-term bottlenecks by facilitating access to supplies needed to produce COVID-19 vaccines intended for distribution through COVAX. It will provide a secure platform for vaccine manufacturers and suppliers of critical inputs to confidentially indicate their needs or available supplies to CEPI, in its role as facilitator. CEPI will identify matching offers and requests and connect potential matches, prioritising based on objective criteria including whether the manufacturer has a COVAX advance purchase agreement and WHO EUL in place, as well as dose volumes and delivery timings. Future versions of the Marketplace may include supplies required to manufacture other lifesaving therapies and vaccines which are also being affected by current global supply shortages.

The Marketplace is expected to improve the free flow of critical COVID-19 vaccine supplies by:

Providing suppliers with a platform to allocate and reallocate unused materials.

Mobilizing idle stock from vaccines and candidates that fail prior to gaining regulatory approval – as well as from those that might scale down their production in the future.

Mobilizing potential surplus stock from manufacturers with non-vaccine activities.

Vaccine manufacturing processes are highly complex and expanding manufacturing capacity requires managing intricate cross-border supply chains frequently involving more than 100 components. Participants will be able to offer and request any materials required for vaccine production through the COVAX Marketplace, but it will initially focus on six categories of supplies which have been identified as critical: bioreactor bags, single use assemblies, cell culture media, filters, lipids, vials and stoppers.

Towards a scalable Marketplace platform

The COVAX Marketplace launching today is an initial version which aims to respond quickly to immediate market needs and bottlenecks. It will launch with approximately 10 – 15 participants, comprising COVAX vaccine manufacturers and suppliers of the key materials which have been identified as being most urgently needed. In parallel, in consultation with stakeholders CEPI is urgently exploring extending the Marketplace to include additional participants such as vaccine manufacturers with unused inputs – including those with failed products – Contract Development and Manufacturing Organizations (CDMOs), and pharmaceutical companies not currently involved in COVID-19 vaccine production. This would provide a platform to resolve supply bottlenecks which could extend beyond COVID-19 vaccines to other lifesaving therapies and vaccines which are being impacted by the current supply situation.

Prospective participants in the Marketplace are encouraged to visit the COVAX Marketplace webpage and submit an expression of interest at marketplace@cepi.net.

Dr Richard Hatchett, CEPI CEO, said: “Vaccine manufacturers have described the ways in which shortages of critical supplies have limited the speed and scale at which vaccines can be produced, which means many vaccine production lines haven’t been operating at full capacity. Optimizing the use of scarce resources that may otherwise be sitting idle – by matching buyers and sellers around the globe – could contribute to improving the global supply of vaccines through COVAX. The pandemic has led to extraordinary innovation in vaccine development and production, and the COVAX Marketplace is an example of how we must continue to look beyond business as usual to find pragmatic solutions to fixable problems – such as supply chain bottlenecks – so that we can urgently unlock more COVID-19 vaccine doses for COVAX.”

Thomas Cueni, Director General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA), said: “Today, over 3 billion doses of effective and safe vaccines have been made and administered. But to vaccinate the world’s adult population by the end of the year, we must achieve the estimated production of 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To do this, it is essential to optimize production, as well urgently increase dose sharing and remove trade barriers. A delay in the delivery of a bioreactor plastic bag can halt a whole production line and delay a batch of thousands of litres for weeks, if not months. To alert the international community to the challenges associated with this historic scaling up of vaccine production, in March 2021 we joined the Chatham House Summit on COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Supply Chain. One of the recommendations, strongly endorsed by industrialised, developing world vaccine manufacturers and biotech companies, was to find a practical solution to removing the inevitable bottlenecks for raw materials and components. We are delighted to have been able to contribute to the creation of this platform to facilitate matching supplies with buyers, thereby ensuring manufacturing supplies for COVID-19 vaccines. Speed is of the essence to achieve vaccine equity. This marketplace will hopefully make an important contribution towards the global endeavour of achieving the 11 billion doses target this year.”

Sai Prasad, President of Developing Country Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network, said: “Within a year and a half into this pandemic we now have several safe and effective vaccines with demonstrated evidence in real world settings. Industry from both developing and developed world have shown leadership in product development and large-scale manufacturing, resulting in more than 3 billion doses manufactured. While this is a successful outcome for most infectious diseases, it is clearly not enough to address the global public health crisis caused by this pandemic. We now need to scale up at a rapid speed to reach a production capacity of more than 10 billion doses annually. With the complexities involved with vaccine manufacturing requiring specialized human resources, facilities, raw materials, consumables etc, we need to enable the entire supply and distribution chain to rise up to this challenge.  The COVAX Marketplace will enable partnerships focused on removing bottlenecks, increasing capacities and attaining our goal of vaccinating the world.”

Kevin D. Ott, Executive Director of Bio-Process Systems Alliance (BPSA), said: “BPSA’s 64 Members applaud CEPI and its partners for launching the COVAX Marketplace. It’s been said that ‘rocky roads lead to beautiful places’: the Marketplace is an exceptional and timely effort to match marketplace needs with available supplies, helping to smooth that road to global immunization with the tools and technologies needed to make the world safe again.”

[1] The COVAX Manufacturing Taskforce is spearheaded by the co-leads of COVAX – CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO – working in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and organizations representing vaccine manufacturers: International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN), and Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

[2] Towards Vaccinating the World: Landscape of current COVID-19 supply chain and manufacturing capacity, potential challenges, initial responses, and possible ‘solution space’ – a discussion paper, 9 March 2021

[3] COVID-19 vaccine briefing. Science based forecasts for the short and long term, 28 June 2021
Source: CEPI (Press release)