As the world searches for a way to end the coronavirus pandemic, there is an ongoing race, alongside, to find and produce a vaccine. Some optimistic forecasts suggest that one could be available in 12–18 months — but researchers are already warning that it might not be physically possible to make enough vaccine for everyone and that rich countries might hoard supplies. In an interview with Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern, Weber said that the likelihood of developing a vaccine by January is high.
Manufacturing facilities around the world can churn out hundreds of millions of doses of influenza vaccine each year. Companies are stepping up production at times of high demand. However, if billions of people need a new kind of vaccine for coronavirus and firms continue making the normal array of shots against influenza, measles, mumps and rubella, and other diseases, there could be a production shortage.
The world cannot continue to keep the economy shut like this forever. Countries need to develop the capability of testing and contact tracing, which is not available everywhere, unfortunately. Local officials must be able to rapidly identify clusters and contain them through testing and contact tracing to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The WHO says it is also working on a plan to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines. However, how the enforcement isn’t clear yet. Supply constraints, both physical and political, are a big worry.
It is possible that by the time a vaccine arrives, much of the world will already have been infected. Even in that case, many might want shots to boost immunity. And thinking ahead to ensure there’s enough manufacturing capacity for vaccines in any future epidemic is still vital. The concern for how to manufacture vaccines efficiently, reliably, and safely is always going to be there.