A vaccine looks like humanity’s best bet against corona virus. Unprecedented efforts are being made, with researchers and organisations across the world pursuing both traditional and novel methods to create one as soon as possible.
With over 100 labs scrambling to develop COVID-19 vaccination, pharma executives are hopeful for roll out before 2021, but cite ‘daunting’ challenges in producing billions of doses. Pharmaceutical company executives said that one or several COVID-19 vaccines could begin rolling out before 2021, but warned the challenges would be “daunting” as it was estimated that 15 billion doses would be needed to halt the pandemic. The minimum number of vaccine doses the world will need is 15 billion if it turns out to be a two dose vaccine.
Well over 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine against the novel corona virus, including 10 that have made it to the clinical trial stage.
Albert Bourla, head of Pfizer, said that his company believed a vaccine could be ready before the end of the year. Pfizer is conducting clinical trials with German firm Biontech on several possible vaccines in Europe and the United States. If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can have a vaccine around the end of October,” he said. The hope of many people is that we will have a vaccine, hopefully several, by the end of this year,” Pascal Soriot, head of AstraZeneca, told a virtual briefing.
His company is partnering with the University of Oxford to develop and distribute a vaccine being trialed in Britain. Oxford’s virus vaccine trail enters phase 2 with 10,000 volunteers. Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group said, “It’s possible as early as the autumn or towards the end of the year, you could have results that allowed use of the vaccine on a wider scale.
India has identified six local vaccine candidates with 30 groups trying to develop a vaccine for Covid. The government made it clear that the vaccine was not going to be available to everyone at once, besides taking time to develop.
It can take years for a new vaccine to be licensed for general use, but in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, experimental vaccines shown to be safe and effective against the novel corona virus could likely win approval for emergency use. Vaccines take so long to develop because they are expensive to produce and developers wait to be sure of results from each stage before taking the next step. But with Covid vaccine, multiple stages are being pursued simultaneously to save time.
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), which organized Thursday’s briefing, highlighted the “daunting” challenges facing the industry in the push for a vaccine.
One challenge, which may seem counterintuitive, is that transmission rates are rapidly declining in Europe where some of the trials are taking place. Soon they will be too low to properly conduct clinical vaccine trials in a natural setting, Soriot said, adding that so-called “human challenge” studies in which people are intentionally exposed to the virus to test efficacy, were not considered ethically acceptable with COVID-19 We are running against time,” he said.
The novel corona virus has killed more than 358,000 people and infected at least 5.7 million worldwide in a matter of months. IFPMA director Thomas Cueni pointed to estimates that the world will need some 15 billion doses to stop the virus, posing massive logistical challenges.
He stressed that the industry was committed to ensuring equitable access to a future vaccine, but acknowledged that “we will not have sufficient quantities as from day one, even with the best efforts.
Once a working vaccine is developed, one of the biggest obstacles to putting out the amount needed could be, surprisingly, that there are not enough glass vials to store the doses in. There are not enough vials in the world,” Soriot said, adding that AstraZeneca, like a number of other firms, was looking into the possibility of putting multiple doses in each vial.
Paul Stoffels, vice chairman and chief scientific officer at Johnson and Johnson, meanwhile said that if 15 billion doses were needed, a number of different vaccines would be necessary to satisfy the initial demand. “Not all vaccine candidates could go all over the world depending on features, so somewhere between five and 10 will definitely be needed to serve the whole world,” he said.
One challenge could be that some of the vaccines being worked on require storage at very low temperatures, which could be difficult in places lacking the proper infrastructure.
While stressing the need for solidarity and for ensuring fair and equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, the pharmaceutical chiefs flatly rejected any suggestion that intellectual property rights should be waived on vaccine research. “IP is absolutely fundamental to our industry,” GSK chief Emma Walmsley said. Soriot meanwhile pointed out that pharmaceutical companies are currently investing billions of dollars with little chance of recuperating the costs.
“If you don’t protect IP, then essentially there is no incentive for anybody to innovate,” he said.
Let us hope and pray the Covid vaccine hunt will be successful soon.
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Author Brief Profile:
Sir Dr. Hari Krishna Maram, Digital Brand Ambassador and Chairman of Vision Digital India, Vice Chancellor – Global Digital University, USA and Chairman Imperial College narrates his journey.
Dr. Maram’s work in the field of Management and Management Education spans over 25 years. He has an illustrious career in education and has served as the Governing Council Member at AIMA (All India Management Association), Vice President at AIMS (Association of Indian Management Schools). Additionally, he was Honourable Secretary-BMA (Bangalore Management Association), Treasurer-Education Promotion Society for India (EPSI) South India, Executive Board Member at NIPM and Chairperson Higher Education Forum –Karnataka. His efforts in management education have been recognized on numerous occasions by the Government of India. He is also a part of the UGC Committee. Besides being an excellent academician and educationist, Dr Maram is involved with a large number of CSR activities. He is the District Chairman of Lion’s International and Trustee of Lions Super Speciality Eye Hospital & Lions District Service Foundation. Additionally, he is the Chief Mentor of the great initiative “Bangalore Green” which aims at environmental conservation in Bangalore. Throughout his lifetime, he has received various awards like Prestigious Knighthood Award from UK, MTC Global Top 10 Thinkers, “Ramaswamy P Aiyar Best Young Teacher” Award by AIMS,”J L Batra Best Research Paper” Award, “Education Evangelist of India” Award, Lions International President’s Medal, Karmavira Chakra Award, “Medal of Honour” from CIAC Global & The Education, 50 Most Admired Global Indian award from Passion Vista Magazine, Sunfo High appreciation award from Srilanka, International Leadership Innovations Excellence Award from Indo-Srilanka Economic Summit, SHIKSHA RATTAN award from Institute of Economic Studies, International Icon Award from International Economic Summit @ Thailand, Global CIO Award by Global CIO Forum and many more