The world has been racing to get a Covid vaccine since it first began. Scientists and experts all around the world have been working tirelessly to find a safe and effective vaccine. Now they have finally succeeded in making a vaccine. Many companies around the world have been successful in registering their vaccines and getting regulatory approval from almost every country.
The first challenge has now been accomplished, but there now lies a second challenge. Which is to make enough of the vaccine to inoculate the whole of the world’s population. The bigger challenge, however, is to ensure supply of booster shots after six months or a year, as per the requirements. As the world prepares to go back to normal, there is still a shortage of covid vaccines around the world.
There are still some countries in the world which have not yet received any doses of the vaccines. If we want to have a covid free world, we will have to ensure that each and every country has its population inoculated against covid. But this is a long and laborious process, which has numerous challenges of its own.
Let us dive in to explore the challenges and their possible solutions.
There are Only Limited Manufacturers
Developing a vaccine is not a simple task. It requires detailed attention and the work of hundreds of scientists to get one vaccine right. Although there are more than 150 vaccine candidates that are within the process of clinical trials, there are only a handful of companies in the world who have been able to get regulatory approvals for their vaccines.
The ones who have been able to get their vaccines approved for widespread public use are the big pharma. They may be big when they are considered as companies, but they are not able to fulfil the vaccine demand of the whole world. They are able to manufacture billions of doses, but the world population is much larger.
There are also manufacturing constraints. The companies have limited capacities to manufacture vaccines. Before the pandemic, the requirement for vaccines was not much. The pandemic has suddenly caused a spike in the demand for vaccines. The upscaling of manufacturing facilities and the construction of new manufacturing facilities is something that cannot be done in the blink of an eye. It requires time.
The Possible Solution
There can be a few possible solutions to this problem, but each of them comes with its own challenges. One of them is to outsource the manufacturing of vaccines. There are a number of vaccine manufacturing facilities in different countries which are currently offline. They can be used to manufacture vaccines. But this approach comes with its own difficulties.
In order to outsource the manufacturing of vaccines, the companies must share their secrets with the third party manufacturers. This includes all the ingredients used and the detailed procedure of the manufacturing process. This is a very risky game. Many of the big pharma do not agree with this approach.
This would require a detailed legal agreement to be made so all of the information could be shared judiciously. The possible consequences of this could be increased cost of the vaccines, because the legal procedures would require experts to frame them. Also both the companies will now have a profit margin.
This approach is difficult, but not impossible. There are people who are ready to buy vaccines at any cost. Also, many governments also have the capacity to buy vaccines at increased prices.
The problem does not end here. The bigger problem is that the immunity created by a vaccine for covid lasts only for about six months to a year. This means that the vaccine needs to be administered again to the people who have already been vaccinated. This poses a problem for vaccine manufacturing.
The goal of herd immunity requires more than 70% of the population to be immunized simultaneously. This can only be achieved if the booster shot is readily available for people already vaccinated, along with the continued inoculation of the leftover population. This is again a reminder to us, that we are in this together, and we can only get through this if we remain together.
The Possible Solution
The only solution to this problem is to have an adequate supply of vaccines. Another possible way to get to this solution is to assist the small companies who have their vaccine candidates in the line for approval. They can be provided with some extent of intellectual property.
What this essentially means is, to grant them access to some amount of information. This may in turn give them some support and lead to the approval of their vaccine. It will enable them to provide enough vaccines to the market to be able to achieve herd immunity. Some governments may also be willing to purchase from them. This will reduce the burden on the companies currently providing the world with vaccines.
Even if we have enough vaccines to inoculate the whole world, they are useless if they cannot be made available to those who need them. You cannot vaccinate anyone virtually. Transporting anything from one place to another is a challenge in itself, but vaccines have a bigger challenge.
All of the vaccines are required to be transported in a temperature controlled environment. Some of them need to be refrigerated while some of them need to be frozen. They are also fragile and need to be handled with care. The transport of and storage of vaccines are probably the biggest challenges that are faced by the manufacturers at this time.
The Possible Solution
The possible solution to this can be learned from another sector, which is the ppe manufacturers’ sector. Since the start of the pandemic, the ppe manufacturing sector has been providing for the world’s need for ppes. Many masks and protective gowns suppliers have been using innovative techniques to ensure their products reach their customers.
The services of logistics companies can be hired. Trainings should be given to the maximum amount of logistics staff, so they are equipped with the essential knowledge to handle the transportation of arguably the most valuable commodity in the world right now.