Even if COVID-19 vaccine is developed, not all of us may get it

Even if COVID-19 vaccine is developed, not all of us may get it

Last Reviewed : 12/15/2020
Even if COVID-19 vaccine is developed, not all of us may get it

With the extent of global health and economic impact of COVID-19, there has been a strong push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. With the aggressive approach, it may be possible to have COVID-19 vaccine in the market over the next 12-18 months. A Nature Research Journal published an article raising concerns over the availability of vaccine for everyone and further commented that rich countries might hoard supplies.

Manufacturing facilities may have to balance production of vaccines like influenza, measles, mumps, and rubella against the production of COVID-19 vaccine. If billions of COVID-19 vaccines have to be produced, there may be a shortage of other vaccines. It may not be physically possible to produce COVID-19 vaccine for everyone in the world in time.

According the article, WHO is working on a plan to distribute vaccines equitably to all the countries. As of April 8, 2020, 115 COVID-19 vaccine candidates were identified. 78 were confirmed as active and 37 were unconfirmed as development status could not be determined from available sources. 46% of the confirmed vaccine candidates are being developed in the United States.

Concerns are raised by healthcare authorities all across the world that vaccines may be exclusively accessed by the countries that produce them. As 46% of the confirmed vaccine candidates are being developed in the United States, there is a high likelihood that the United States may end up producing the majority of the vaccines when compared to rest of the world. There are only 18% confirmed vaccine candidates in China, the next largest number of confirmed vaccine candidates after the U.S.

Another big challenge to produce enough vaccine is to scale up manufacturing. However, the infrastructure needed to produce vaccines will differ depending on the type of vaccine. Vaccines built from an inactivated virus may need facilities with biosafety level 3 certification. As these facilities are scarce, very few companies are trying this approach. Making vaccines from the formulations of RNA involves a simpler process and scaling up will be easier.

According to CEPI, around $2 billion is needed to develop COVID-19 vaccine. They were promised $690 million by several governments. They still need at least another $1 billion.

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a branch of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is working with Johnson & Johnson and announced $1 billion partnership to develop a vaccine and rapidly scale up capacity.

Evidently, Australia produced the first vaccine for H1N1 influenza pandemic during 2009 but it wanted vaccines for its citizens first before exporting to other countries. Most of the countries have similar laws that can enforce manufacturers to sell vaccines domestically before exporting to other countries. There is no global agreement for equitable distribution. Global health leaders and governments may have to come together and address this issue as COVID-19 vaccine is being developed.



  1. A Nature Research Journal. April 9. doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01063-8
  2. Tung Thanh Le et al. The COVID-19 vaccine development landscape. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. April 9. doi: 10.1038/d41573-020-00073-5

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