Supply chain challenge- Remember when hand sanitizers and toilet paper became a metaphor for safety in March? When we all thought there was a supply chain crisis when we weren’t allowed to buy two maxi packs at once in the store?
The next ‘real’ supply chain crisis however will be to vaccinate the whole world, safely, efficiently and fairly. We have to get from formulating, to planning, to manufacturing and finally distributing billions of doses of vaccine.
As we struggle to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are working urgently on the development of a vaccine. But the challenge of creating and approving a vaccine is only the first step towards vaccinating everyone in the world. The production and distribution of hundreds of millions of doses, when a vaccine is approved, is yet another challenge that must be overcome. Once the vaccine is on the market, every country in the world will want it—and there will be almost 8 billion consumers by then.
One massive problem: the infrastructure that drives the global economy was scaling down for a protracted downturn, just as pharmaceutical companies had to scale up for the biggest and most momentous product launch in modern history.
In addition, the vaccine supply chain includes not only the development and production of the vaccine content, but also the storage and packaging of components, cold chain transit, and national and global shipping. Pharmaceuticals must be kept at a certain temperature; they cannot be tampered with, and they must be compliant.
If you need to ship a vaccine safely all over the world, to any country, how do you plan to do that?
Once shipping has started, billions of people around the world, in both developed and developing countries, will line up to be vaccinated, and new challenges will emerge: counterfeiting, ethical questions (who gets it first), and many more.
Arguably, the ‘biggest challenge’ won’t come until after a coronavirus vaccine is found.
Fast tracking design and formulation
There are many stages involved in the development of a vaccine, from initial academic research, to preclinical preparation, to clinical trials and final approval. Vaccines normally require years of testing and additional time to produce at scale, but scientists are hoping to develop a coronavirus vaccine within 12 to 18 months.
Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, with more than 170 candidate vaccines now tracked by the World Health Organization (WHO). Producing the antigen, which provokes the body’s immune response, uses different techniques depending on the vaccine’s design. The vaccine candidates use different technology types, like protein-based, non-replicating viral vectors or DNA vaccines.