Coffee talk “Andalusia at the forefront of vaccination” Lessons from the pandemic to protect vaccination programs

The development of the current vaccination plans and the importance of continuing to screen immunization against Covid and other active viruses was the pillar on which the editorial coffee organized last Thursday at the headquarters of Joyly group. The meeting, organized with the collaboration of Modernit served to unite the different perspectives that clinicians, managers and industry share regarding the current situation of Andalusia and its future.

Diego Varga, director of the Andalusian Health Service, explained that “historically, vaccination systems have been a priority, as a cornerstone and proof of cohesion in a fair and accessible system”. As it progressed, the administration’s commitment was reflected in the budgets, “which went from an investment of 54 million euros to 104 million in the latest budget”. For Vargas, “we have one of the most complete public health system calendars thanks to the efforts made not only in childhood vaccination, which has been a classic scenario, but also a great effort in the adult vaccination program; in the processes of patients with high comorbidity where vaccination interferes in a very positive way in the prevention and improvement of the quality of life”. Therefore, it looked at some results in various areas, such as meningococcal vaccination, influenza vaccination in children, HPV vaccination of children from January 2023, pneumococcal vaccination or herpes zoster vaccination for risk groups.

“This year we are in record numbers in a campaign aimed at the elderly, already exceeding 60% of the over 65s, in a joint vaccination campaign against influenza and Covid for this group”. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 20 million doses of Covid vaccines have been administered in Andalusia. “Vaccination translates into health outcomes and we are very satisfied with the implementation of this vaccination campaign without losing sight of public and private collaboration in its implementation. We will continue to work to expand the schedule based on evidence, efficacy studies and Vaccine Advisory Committee criteria.”

For his part, David Moreno, director of the Strategic Vaccination Plan of the Junta de Andalucía, highlighted the favorable predisposition to vaccination for both professionals and the population. “Besides pneumonia, there is a lot of it variety of respiratory diseases by different viruses and bacteria,” he explained, emphasizing the extent of respiratory diseases, which was revealed with the prevention of pneumonia thanks to the Covid-19 vaccination. The expert highlighted the current research work and health systems to promote prevention not only by reducing mortality, but also the impact on the quality of life of hospitalized people. “We have seen its effect on incidence peaks, which sometimes put a strain on the question about health systems. If there is a key measure in this sense, it is vaccines ”, she added.

He also thanked for the great involvement of the population. “Initially forecasts were estimated at 60% in Covid vaccination and some time later almost all were reached thanks to the proven effectiveness of vaccines in avoiding hospitalizations”. According to data provided by Moreno, last year the vaccine for Covid-19 reached 98% of over-70s and 90% of the population between 60 and 65 years old. With a total to date of 1.1 million, this fall’s booster dose reached 67% of over 80s and 63% of over 65s. “The impact of subsequent waves of Covid will be less thanks to what we have achieved in this period. We continue to do seasonal vaccination in the future and we will continue to highlight the population at risk, ”he stressed.

For his part, Dr. Alfonso Carmona, president of the College of Doctors of Seville and founder of the IHP Group, explained how “the pandemic has increased confidence in vaccines”. “Prevention is the best tool, vaccines are the key to prevention and we must not let our guard down,” he said. Also, he highlighted the role of paediatricians as great architects of the enhancement of vaccines and defended Andavac’s commitment to “doing things well and with quality”.

On the importance of vaccination in different age groups, Carmona considered that “the disease knows no age” and underlined that pediatricians “even if we see children, we must insist with the elderly when we talk to them and encourage compliance with the programs Finally, he wanted to allude to the innovation that the messenger RNA vaccines to respond and provide solutions to the diseases we know. “We have the pharmaceutical industry to thank for its research work and the progress it has made in the pandemic,” she said.

The doctor Antonio Lemes, head of the Intensive Medicine Service of the AGS Sur of Seville, addressed the impact of the vaccine on hospitalizations due to Covid. “At the moment there are 17 hospitalized patients in the Andalusian UCIS. We come from a job that began in March 2020 where 34 UCIS worked in a coordinated manner involving 55 public and private hospitals. Before the arrival of the vaccines, there were 750 simultaneous patients in the Andalusian intensive care units”. “They arrived in intensive care on 12% of patients admitted to hospital and in all my 44-year experience in the ICU, I had never seen a disease with such a high mortality,” he explained based on his historical perspective.

“In January 2021, even without having vaccines, there were 640 patients intubated with mechanical ventilation. It was possible to assist all patients by tripling the capacity of UCIS beds. As of October 2021, with a portion of the population vaccinated, we still had hospitalizations of unvaccinated patients. A month later, the number of hospitalized patients requiring intensive care dropped dramatically to 2 or 3%. In January 2022, half of the people hospitalized were already unvaccinated, ”he explained. “Vaccines have been an extremely useful toolboth Covid-19 and other infectious pathologies in history, such as polio or smallpox,” he summarized.

In the end, Juan Carlos Gil, Moderna’s general manager for Spain and Portugal, highlighted the company’s effort, with 11 years of research work behind it and 6 years of work with other coronaviruses. Gil agreed that “Healthcare professionals have historically done a commendable job of complying with immunization coverage,” and this “Andalusia is an example to follow in terms of the vaccination plan and the professionals involved”.

On the strategic role of our country for the company, he underlined that “Spain is a key country for Moderna and we have a significant investment through a long-term collaboration to produce Moderna’s mRNA vaccines with Rovi”. Furthermore, especially in Andalusia, the collaboration with Rovi it is exemplary. Indeed, from Granada, we are serving the coronavirus vaccine in more than 70 countries, ”she stressed.

Moderna is investing more than 500 million euros in Spain in 2022. On the one hand, in its alliance with the Spanish pharmaceutical company Rovi to produce its updated vaccine against the new covid variants in Madrid and Granada and, on the other, in the construction, in the Community of Madrid, of a quality testing laboratory for its messenger RNA vaccines, which are expected to be operational in 2023.

Messenger RNA, a commitment to the future

Moderna’s mRNA technology manages to provide cells with information so that they themselves manufacture the viral protein so that the body itself generates an immune response against the pathogen, i.e. when the virus tries to attack our body, it will be able to defend ourselves because, previously, we have already generated an immune response against that antigen. Moderna’s messenger RNA platform has the great advantage and flexibility of being able to produce different vaccines in the same facilities, with the same technology and the same equipment.

For more than a decade, the company has worked on the research and production of various drugs through its mRNA platform. As Juan Carlos Gil revealed, “it is this same technology and its vast knowledge that allows them great flexibility and agility when it comes to creating and delivering effective solutions in record time to fight, now and in the future, against the diseases that currently have no therapeutic option, just as it has made it possible to adapt the current vaccine against Covid-19 to incorporate the omicron variant very quickly”.

In addition to the coronavirus vaccine, Moderna has an ongoing development program through its platform that includes vaccines for influenza, RSV, HIV, cytomegalovirus, rare and autoimmune diseases, and the personalized cancer vaccine.

The company has committed to WHO to initiate clinical trials by 2025 for diseases considered by WHO to pose the greatest risk to global public health, including malaria and tuberculosis. All those pathogens that have pandemic potential and in which they have spent many years trying to develop a vaccine to date without success. “At Moderna we are very involved not only with vaccination, but also with people’s health. What we want to achieve is that vaccination and the therapeutic solutions that we will put on the table are incorporated into the daily life of people (children, adults and the elderly) as a prevention system,” explained Juan Carlos Gil.

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