The government’s initiative to help vaccine development under project “warp speed” is commendable. Out of the hundreds of laboratories around the world, in vaccine development, they are backing the five most promising candidates. The success will depend on excellent international cooperation. One reason why Dr. Fauci and others have constantly been saying it takes between 12 to 18 months to develop a vaccine, is because it must: (a) Be safe for the billions of people likely to take it and (b) Be effective in preventing Covid-19 and (c) Be easily available worldwide at low cost. So in sum, the vaccine must be:
- Available in large quantities and at a low cost
The development process right now is being fast tracked in a highly unique manner. Traditionally it’s safety first, then effectiveness and finally availability. The way they’re speeding up the process is to do all three at once! I was very surprised when I saw a Facebook posting by a dear friend, that the Oxford University vaccine (AZD1222) was set to begin human trials with 2,000 volunteers in São Paulo,Brazil this month. Having just posted how to unreliable anything is on Facebook, I did some research and found out to my surprise, that it was 100% true. The Oxford University vaccine received a grant from the Lemann foundation to fund 1,000 volunteers. Screening and testing does not come cheap. The individuals must be free from Covid-19 virus, as determined by tests, and be medical workers in São Paulo,
This good news continues. Oxford University is already conducting tests with 10,000 volunteers in Britain. The problem with Britain is that the chance of contracting Covid-19 is low, so knowing the vaccine is working is difficult. I guess scientists felt the city of Sao Paulo would provided additional evidence that the vaccine actually works. Oxford has teamed up with AstraZeneca, a very large pharmaceutical company (market cap = 143 billion USD) to manufacture the vaccine. AstraZeneca says it has the capacity to make 2 billion doses by the end of the year. AstraZeneca has agreed a $750 million deal to produce 300 million doses with international foundations the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance. A second agreement, with Serum Institute of India, will allow the leading vaccine manufacturer to make 1 billion doses for poorer countries, with 40% of those to arrive by the end of 2020. It was just recently announced the potential global supply of a potential coronavirus vaccine has been doubled to 2 billion after a deal including $750 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Of course, making a vaccine before it is proven effective and safe is risky. But the intent is excellent and the generosity of the Serum Institute, Gates Foundations and other others is just incredible. Besides Oxford, there are many other companies, including Moderna, Gilead, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson developing vaccines. Novavax received Department of Defense funding to produce 10 million doses of their vaccine in 2020.
So, the vaccine research, development and production are roaring ahead. Exactly how this plays out is anyone’s guess.
Covid-19 is a global problem and we need global solutions.
Stay tuned and healthy,