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Industry Updates

Pharma Companies Ramp Up Manufacturing to Deliver on COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline Expectations


Government officials have said repeatedly that it’s possible to have a viable COVID-19 vaccine within a year of the coronavirus first coming to the attention of the United States. That promise has raised public expectations, putting pressure on pharmaceutical companies to move forward with manufacturing plans before the vaccine candidates prove their safety or efficacy, according to MarketWatch.

For example, Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. has yet to share results from the Phase 1 trials for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, but MarketWatch said the Department of Defense recently announced it would pay $71 million to fund the manufacturing of a device used to administer Inovio’s vaccine.

“People, companies are starting to plan to make doses even before, you know, the vaccine works,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “So the risk of the speed is not risk to safety. It’s not risk to scientific integrity. It’s risk to money.”

There are 16 vaccine candidates in clinical trials globally, four of which are being tested in the United States, according to the World Health Organization. The four candidates in the United States are Moderna Inc.’s mRNA-1273, Inovio’s INO-4800, Novavax Inc.’s NVX-CoV2373, and BioNTech and Pfizer Inc.’s BNT162.

The increased public and political pressure to deliver on the guarantee of having a COVID-19 vaccine by the first of the year has worried some in the medical community, MarketWatch reported. Developing a new vaccine typically takes years, not months, according to three medical experts at NYU Langone Health.

Researchers took a year-and-a-half to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus, four years for a mumps vaccine, more than five years for an Ebola vaccine and 10 years for a flu vaccine, according to MarketWatch. The article goes on to state that in some cases, experimental vaccines for SARS and dengue fever have triggered an enhanced version of the disease in people who had been vaccinated.

Developing a vaccine is difficult, but analysts expect this virus will be amenable to a vaccine because it “hasn’t mutated much, convalescent serum indicates that some patients develop immunity and we haven’t seen significant spikes of re-infections,” according to MarketWatch.

How will most Americans react to this race to make a vaccine available? The inability to know the long-term effects of that vaccine doesn’t give me, for one, confidence to want to be first in line for a shot. I doubt I’m the only one concerned about taking the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available as 43 percent of Americans choose to forgo the influenza shot, according to health-oriented news site Stat

But will it even be my decision whether or not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? While I believe it should be my choice, Stat writer Lauren S. Grossman said in an opinion piece last month that she believes the U.S. should “require all Americans or at least schoolchildren and workers in direct-contact jobs — to be vaccinated against this coronavirus.”

Requiring Americans take the COVID0-19 vaccine may seem attractive to some as they point to the need to achieve herd immunity. Eighty percent or more Americans need to be immune to COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity, which can happen by being infected by COVID-19 or by taking a vaccine that protects against it.

But will the nation really adopt new policies that force people to unwillingly inject themselves with a vaccine — one proven or otherwise? Time will tell.