By Lisa Schlein
March 31, 2021 01:59 PM
GENEVA – World Health Organization experts fear the race to produce large quantities of COVID-19 vaccine could cut into the supply of global measles vaccines.
Critical topics relating to immunization globally were discussed during a regular meeting last week by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, known as SAGE. Recommendations were made regarding the status of Ebola vaccines, as well as an oral polio vaccine, and COVID-19 vaccines undergoing evaluation.
During this review, SAGE Chair Alejandro Cravioto said the experts raised concerns regarding the situation of vaccinations against measles and rubella.
“We are deeply worried that this had been stalled because of the COVID situation and we fear that if this is not properly looked at by each one of the countries that has not been able to vaccinate the children so far, we will be having problems with outbreaks of, especially measles. That is something that worries everybody and that we saw happening in 2019 in the very clearest way,” Cravioto said.
Measles surged worldwide in 2019, reaching the highest number since 1996. Nearly 900,000 measles cases were reported, claiming more than 207,000 child lives, most in developing countries.
Director of the WHO’s Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals Kate O’Brien said she does not expect shortages of measles vaccine right now. However, she warned that could change because of the intense pressure to increase the manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccine.
“As that ramps up, we have to continue watching this really carefully. We are starting to see the supply chains start to shrink to some degree so that the amount of vaccine in the supply chain is narrowing. But we do not see in those analyses that that would lead to shortages anywhere at this point. But a very important area to continue watching carefully,” O’Brien said.
On another matter, two Chinese manufacturers of Sinopharm and Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine products, for the first time presented SAGE with interim data for review.
The experts are evaluating the efficacy and safety of those vaccines.
They say the WHO also will analyze the information for Emergency Use Listing. If the WHO approves the vaccines, SAGE says it would likely recommend their use as part of the growing arsenal of vaccine products already in worldwide use.