World Won't Have Enough COVID-19 Vaccine For Everyone Until 2024, Supplier Says

The race to find and make a safe vaccine for COVID-19 is unlike anything the world has ever seen before. If successful, efforts to develop the vaccine will shatter the record for the fastest vaccine, currently held by the vaccine for mumps, which took four years to get to market.

Unfortunately, there's a big difference between finding a vaccine and actually getting it to everyone and as the world's largest vaccine maker says, the race to find the vaccine has not been matched by the capacity to produce it, leaving a wide gap that will take a long time to fill.

We all long for our daily lives to go back to normal.

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But according to Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India β€” the world's largest vaccine manufacturer β€” we're still a long way off from getting the world to resemble pre-COVID times again.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Poonawalla said that a lack of sufficient manufacturing capacity means that there won't be enough vaccine for everyone in the world until late 2024.

Unless capacity ramps up, the math simply doesn't work out for faster delivery.

Unsplash | CDC

"It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet," Poonawalla told the Financial Times, noting that because the most promising vaccines require two shots, manufacturers will have to make at least 15 billion doses in order to have enough on hand for everyone in the world to get the vaccine.

The Serum Institute of India has partnered with five different pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZenica and Novavax, to produce one billion doses of vaccine, half of which have been promised to India.

There are other reasons to temper expectations around a vaccine, experts say.

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For one thing, the virus could mutate in such a way as to make the vaccine less effective. Distribution of the vaccine could be tricky as well, and other measures like containment will be necessary to curb the disease.

Peter Hale, the executive director of the Foundation for Vaccine Research in the US, told the Financial Times that with two vaccines capable of 75% protection against the virus, three quarters of the world's population could be vaccinated by mid-2023.

"That should be enough to curb the spread of infection and stall the pandemic β€” though not good enough to consign the virus to the dustbin of history," Hale said.

It's also unclear how ramping up production for COVID-19 vaccines will affect other diseases.

Unsplash | CDC

The Serum Institute of India, for example, also manufactures vaccines for diseases such as polio, measles, and influenza for use in 170 countries. If production capacity is focused entirely on COVID-19, what happens with those other diseases?

Nevertheless, the Serum Institute of India is committed to producing the COVID-19 vaccine at a cost of $3 per dose to 68 countries for AstraZenica and 92 countries for Novavax.

Despite the long timeline experts expect, it is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

Facebook | GSK

Moderna has committed to producing 100 million doses of its vaccine for distribution in the U.S. even while the vaccine is still in clinical trials and is aiming to produce one billion doses per year in concert with vaccine manufacturer Lonza.

Pfizer and BioNTech have committed to delivering 600 million doses of their vaccine to the U.S., with the first 100 million expected in 2021. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi also announced an agreement to manufacture up to one billion doses of vaccine per year starting in 2021.

h/t: Financial Times