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International Vaccine Technology Workshop: Closing Remarks by Nils Daulaire, MD, MPH, Director, HHS Office of Global Health Affairs

Remarks of Nils Daulaire MD, MPH
Office of Global Health Affairs
International Vaccine Technology Workshop
Hyderabad, India
September 18, 2010

Many in this room have come a long distance to attend this Workshop.  And based on what has been discussed here, both in the plenary and in the hallways, we have all come a long way.

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I want to thank the Government of India, the Developing Country Vaccine Manufacturers Network, the World Health Organization, and PATH for their contributions in the planning and hosting of this Workshop.

I also want to recognize and thank the Workshop Co-Chairs: Marie-Paule Kieny of WHO, John Boslego of PATH, and Jonathan Seals of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

The range of people in this room, and the viewpoints and experiences you represent, are deeply impressive.  The 2009 H1N1 pandemic will, I believe, come to be seen as a blessing in disguise, making it clear to all that pandemic influenza can only be met by concerted action engaging all the different regions of the world and all the sectors that have meaningful contributions to make.

We were lucky in 2009 that the worst-case scenario did not come to pass.  And we learned that none of us were sufficiently prepared.

I was sent here to this Workshop by the U.S. Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebelius, and on behalf of President Obama, to underline how vitally important the work being done here is to the entire world, and to deliver a clear message:

The United States Government, from the President on down, is committed to this course of equity: of sharing the benefits of knowledge and technology around the world.  We are committed to assuring that the benefits of our common global efforts to fight disease – and not just influenza—serve the vital needs of those with the least ability to protect themselves: the global poor and the world’s developing countries.

This is the fundamental principle that drove our U.S. domestic efforts that brought about passage of the recent historic health care reform bill.  Health is not just a luxury good for the wealthy.

It is also what drives our renewed and reinvigorated commitment to global health, as reflected in President Obama’s Global Health Initiative.

For too long, the debate in international arenas has been framed as a fight over patents.  This workshop is one important thread of a growing fabric being woven by the US and our partners around the world that shows this is not the case.

Toward that same end -- of spreading the benefits of research and technology – the United States will officially announce next week that the U.S. National Institutes of Health will immediately license – on a royalty-free basis – a set of U.S. owned patents, to UNITAID, as the first contribution to their voluntary patent pool intended to facilitate the development of anti-retroviral medicines for developing countries.

This Workshop makes it evident that when the objectives are concrete and substantive, we can all work together – Ministries of Health, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, academia, the private sector, NGOs, international development agencies, international development banks, and a wide range of interested parties.  This Workshop has been free of polemics and positioning, and I believe we have made meaningful progress.

I am a public health physician, and I have been working on issues of global health equity for more than three decades.  I have seen reflected in the discussions here something I have come to recognize in my own work: that we must have strong connections and working partnerships between technical experts and policymakers to promote the necessary balance between the appropriate use of appropriate technologies and availability of quality vaccines with demand – at the individual, community, and national levels – against vaccine preventable diseases.

We also need to make sure that scientific data and evidence are well and clearly linked to policymaking.  I will do everything in my power to make sure that you are heard and that your guidance is heeded.

In 2009, H1N1’s rapid global spread showed us all that we needed surge capacity in vaccine production well beyond what existed.  We have all recognized that an important part of that new capacity must be built in developing countries, and must be done through concrete international collaboration.

I was heartened to learn that one of the things growing out of the discussions in this Workshop is a nascent African Vaccine Initiative.  The United States will be honored to be a partner in such efforts, and we commit ourselves to helping you to build the capacity you need.  We recognize this will be neither quick nor easy, but we will walk the road with you.

We are also pleased to have been able to support, and continue to support, WHO’s initiative to increase influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity in Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Romania, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.  We recognize that this is just the beginning.

We are also very pleased to support WHO’s Global Action Plan, which takes an approach entirely consistent with President Obama’s commitment to supporting countries in achieving their own priorities and plans to promote greater global equity in health.

This Workshop, and the first Workshop held in January 2010, are early steps in an ongoing dialogue aimed at building concrete partnerships between all stakeholders.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is pleased to continue to facilitate this process.

There will be additional workshops in 2011 on Enhancing Regulatory Capacity and on Workforce development.  I hope the information and discussions that are engendered will help to refine the Global Action Plan and better define concrete steps we can all take together to achieve the essential objectives of increasing sustainable vaccine manufacturing capacity in developing countries, of reducing morbidity and mortality – especially among the most vulnerable – and of promoting global health.

The true test of human civilization in the 21st century will be whether we are able to – and choose to – harness technology, communications, global transportation, and resources to outpace the killers and predators – influenza, other pathogens and diseases, and other threats – that lurk in the shadows and that are awaiting the next opportunity to strike.

You have brought light to those shadows.  Thank you for being here.