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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

January 24, 2022 by Anna Kovacevich

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The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) has signed agreements with 27 generic manufacturing companies to produce and supply the oral COVID-19 antiviral molnupiravir for 105 low- and middle-income countries. The sublicense agreements follow a voluntary licensing agreement signed by MPP and Merck, Sharp & Dohme—which developed the drug—in October to facilitate global access of the COVID-19 treatment. The nonexclusive licenses allow generic manufacturers to produce the raw ingredients and finished drug itself: five companies will focus on producing the raw ingredients, thirteen companies will produce both raw ingredients and the finished drug, and nine companies will produce only the finished drug. Molnupiravir has not yet been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), a step often regarded as a precursor to the negotiation of manufacturing licenses by a United Nations-supported group like MPP.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a significant threat to humanity, as it has become a leading cause of death worldwide killing about 3,500 people every day, according to a new study published in The Lancet last week. More than 1.2 million people—and potentially millions more—died in 2019 as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. The analysis, which covered more than 200 countries and territories, is the most comprehensive estimate to date of the global impact of AMR, which has caused common infections to become untreatable. The report highlights an urgent need to scale up action to combat AMR and outlines immediate actions policymakers can take to help save lives and protect health systems, including optimizing the use of existing antibiotics, taking greater action to monitor and control infections, and providing more funding to develop new antibiotics and treatments.

The COVAX vaccine-sharing facility has delivered 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, across 144 countries, as of last weekend. The program, which was initiated in 2020 with the goal of delivering 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, began delivering vaccines in February 2021 but hit several setbacks throughout the year, including vaccine hoarding by high-income countries and export restrictions which limited vaccine supply. Shipments increased exponentially in the last quarter of 2021, but vaccine inequity remains high, according to the latest WHO data showing 67 percent of the population in richer nations have been fully vaccinated, compared with only 5 percent in poorer nations. More than 40 percent of the world's population has yet to receive a first dose. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has launched a renewed call for COVAX funding to help reach WHO's goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the populations in poorer countries by July.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.