Without a vaccine or treatment, the world has been forced to adopt severe tactics to slow the spread of COVID-19: social distancing, shutdowns, closures, and cancellations. As the countries are now beginning to reopen, it’s clear there is still much hardship to come — for those laid off, for businesses forced to implement costly new health measures and for those still at risk of infection.
However, the global race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine to shield people from the infection is now well underway and gaining ground by the week. There are now more than 90 vaccines under development from governments, non-profit, and private companies. Several are in stages of human clinical trials while some of the developers have already posted preliminary but promising results from their vaccine trials. This is a global problem that requires a global solution.
Dozens of companies large and small are rushing to develop vaccines using different technologies and approaches. Medical experts have warned that the volume of vaccine available to fight the coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 in coming years is expected to fall far short of global demand, despite an unprecedented effort to manufacture billions of doses. About 70 per cent of the world’s population – or 5.6 billion people – will probably need to be inoculated to begin to establish herd immunity and slow its spread.
The scenario public health experts fear most is a worldwide fight in which manufacturers will sell only to the highest bidders, rich countries trying to buy up the supplies, and nations where manufacturers have located hoard vaccines for their citizens. The global grab for protective equipment and ventilators that left poorer countries empty-handed suggests the competition over vaccines could be at least as fierce.
“It’s not going to be sufficient just to get a viable vaccine,” says distinguished professor, Nada Sanders at Northeastern University. A reliable supply of medical components, she says, is just as necessary. A race for a vaccine is full of risks because no one knows which projects will succeed. That forces companies to scale up to produce millions of doses of vaccine that might end up being worthless. This race could make large drug companies enter into vaccine contracts again as they face pressure to recoup their investments.