NESA report: Finland cannot handle pandemic vaccine production alone
The National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA), together with an extensive working group, has prepared a report exploring options for national pandemic vaccine production to prepare for future pandemics. According to the report, domestic production of pandemic vaccines is not completely impossible, provided that international partners and significant funding can be secured to support it.
“The report provides up-to-date information on biotechnology companies suitable for vaccine production in Finland and international cooperation opportunities. Finland has the capability to produce vaccines, but it cannot handle pandemic vaccine production all on its own. We have high competence and good infrastructure, such as clean water and air. However, Finland should strengthen its competitiveness, make investments and partner with international pharmaceutical manufacturers, as well as take an active role in EU cooperation to strengthen the Union’s competitiveness,” says Senior Preparedness Specialist Marjukka Kuittinen from the NESA.
The report indicates that it is not viable to establish a national pandemic vaccine production in Finland in the current situation. Instead, the working group recommends that Finland prepare for future pandemics by supporting the European Union’s procurement of vaccines and related proactive preparedness measures for the next pandemic as part of the EU’s collective preparedness operations. Finland must also actively monitor the development of Nordic cooperation in the field.
The working group included experts from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Business Finland, Fimea and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. The report was commissioned by the Government’s Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy. The actual development of vaccines was not included in the report. The latest report is a follow-up to the NESA’s preliminary report completed in early 2021, which assessed alternative targets and models for domestic pandemic vaccine production in the coronavirus situation.
Potential for vaccine production assessed in the long term
The working group studied and assessed the potential for vaccine production in Finland in the long term, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic. Developing a pandemic vaccine and bringing it to the market very quickly requires international cooperation, an extensive cross-border network and significant funding. Therefore, the working group asked international marketing authorisation holders of vaccines whether they would be interested in cooperating with Finnish partners in vaccine production. At present, there was not sufficient interest and Finnish companies were not seen as adding value to the substantially increased manufacturing and production capacities of international companies.
The extensive report also covers the current plans for Nordic cooperation in vaccine production and the steps the EU is taking to prepare for the next pandemic. These include measures such as procurement reservations and pre-emption rights for new pandemic vaccines. However, the report raises the question of whether the solidarity of EU countries and a single supply and production channel can be relied on in all situations, or whether the state should also consider alternative back-up arrangements for security of supply alongside the main option.
“It is important to consider scenarios such as having insufficient production capacity available for the 500 million or so Europeans during the next pandemic and not being able to protect the entire population of Europe. Therefore, Finland should not close the door on the possibility of developing its own national production. Instead, the state should, among other things, continue to monitor Finnish research and development projects and place special emphasis on promoting Nordic cooperation in vaccine production alongside EU activities,” says Director of the Operations Department Jaakko Pekki.