In response to growing concerns over vaccine inequity, the World Health Organization last June announced plans to create a technology transfer and manufacturing hub for vaccines using mRNA technology, starting with Covid-19 shots.
The move reflected the difficulty in convincing vaccine makers to share their know-how, an issue that has deadlocked talks at the World Trade Organization over whether to waive intellectual property rights. Now, one of the companies involved in the hub, which is based in South Africa, is moving forward with its own vaccine candidate and the WHO has begun announcing other countries where “spokes” will be located for additional production.
Still, the effort is fraught with geopolitical and public health debates. We spoke with Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, who is overseeing the hub, about its progress and plans. This is an edited version of our conversation.
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