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Monkey shortage for Covid-19 research

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

EARA has taken action to support the biomedical sector over the growing shortage of purpose-bred macaque monkeys, used in Covid-19 and other vital research.

Since the beginning of 2020 China, a main source of the monkeys for medical research, has banned their export from breeding facilities, due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The ongoing embargo is now beginning to have serious consequences for research in Europe and the rest of the world, and EARA has written to the World Health Organization to bring this ask for its assistance in engaging with the Chinese Government.

EARA has argued that while the suspension was prudent at the time ‘it has become clear that animals exported from China possess a very low risk of transmitting any communicable disease’.

The association also explained that research monkeys are subject to strict international handling and transportation requirements. All animals complete a quarantine period before and after export and any individuals who come into contact with the animals must wear appropriate personal protective equipment to prevent the transmission of any virus or disease.

EARA has also written, among others, to the European Medical Agency and the UK Prime Minister’s office – the EMA has now forwarded EARA’s comments to WHO with its support.

Kirk Leech, EARA executive director, said: “Monkeys play a critical role in the development of vaccines, such as those for Covid-19, and urgent international co-operation is needed to lift the ban.”

Soon after the ban was announced, earlier this year, the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities, in a meeting with the European Commission, European Medicines Agency, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization (WHO), identified the limited availability of NHPs as an impediment to the development of Covid-19 vaccines, and in April 2020 the European Medicines Agency and U.S. National Institutes of Health launched a co-ordination program to optimise the use of the limited pool of NHPs, in recognition of the shortage of NHPs, exacerbated by China’s export restrictions.

Video from the Tulane National Research Centre, USA showing the primate facilities and how they play a role in Covid-19 research.


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