With the number of deaths from Coronavirus increasing at an exponential rate, researchers from around the globe are racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. However, the vaccine development could take 12-18 months at its earliest. Even then, it may be impossible for everyone to have access to the vaccine due to insufficient production and possible hoarding by rich nations.
Many researchers are urging the government as well as private companies to fund manufacturing facilities to accelerate the development and mass production of a vaccine. Though billions of dollars have already been allocated for the express purpose to find a coronavirus vaccine, it is still insufficient to mass-produce vaccines when the vaccine is finally developed.
As firms are accustomed to producing vaccines for other infectious conditions such as Influenza, Measles, rubella, mumps, etc, mass production of coronavirus vaccine may be possible with the required funds. But producing these vaccines simultaneously while producing vaccines for coronavirus may pose a problem.
Currently, WHO is working out an effective strategy to guarantee an impartial supply of vaccines to all countries. “In a pandemic, the last thing we want is for vaccines to be exclusively accessed by countries that make them and not be universally available,” said Mariana Mazzucato, an economist who heads the University College London Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.
Restraints in vaccine supply can be influenced by both physical and political factors. Limited infrastructure for mass production to produce vaccines can become a serious issue without proper funding to scale up manufacturing capacity.
Additionally, the type of infrastructure required will be highly dependent on the type of vaccine. This will depend on the vaccine constituent, if it is made of a weakened or inactivated version of the coronavirus or if it consists of a surface protein, RNA, or DNA. Alternatively, it may be developed by amplifying DNA or RNA using PCR in vats of cells or even cultivated in tobacco plants.
Vaccines using inactivated forms of Coronavirus will be the easiest to manufacture in massive quantities as the technology to use inactivated viruses has been developed in the 1950s.
Many companies are rushing to develop preparations of RNA or DNA that can provoke the synthesis of proteins used by the coronavirus within our cells themselves. “RNA and DNA platforms may involve a simpler process — which is likely to make them easier to scale up,” says Charlie Weller, head of the vaccines program at Wellcome, a London-based biomedical research funder. Conversely, a vaccine developed through this approach has not yet been permitted for use in any human disease.
It is highly likely that vaccines for Coronavirus will not be synthesized before 2021, but securing adequate advance funds for mass production requires immediate action in order to prevent any delays that could lead to a huge number of casualties.