While a vaccine for COVID-19 could be first made publicly available anywhere from this month to the end of September depending on which vaccine you want and where you live, the odds of everyone on the planet being able to access one are low until at least 2024, according to the CEO of Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
Speaking to Financial Times, Adar Poonawalla said that it would take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on the planet.
While he was not referring to any particular vaccine, he noted that if the vaccine shot was a two-dose one, the world would need 15 billion doses.
Poonawalla added that distribution in India would be difficult given the lack of a sophisticated cold chain system. “I still don’t see a proper plan on paper to do that [in India] beyond 400 million doses...you don't want a situation with the vaccine where you have capacity for your country but you can’t consume it,” he told the paper.
Serum Institute has a production and clinical trial agreement with AstraZeneca for its vaccine, being developed by Oxford University. This vaccine trial was recently frozen after one of the participants developed transverse mylelitis, inflammation in the spinal cord. However, on Saturday, the trial was resumed after Britain’s Medicines Health Regulatory Authority confirmed that this was safe.
Serum Institute had initiated phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials for the vaccine in India in August. The company had promised up to 100 million doses of the vaccine for India by 2021.
The World Health Organisation too has taken a cautious approach to timelines surrounding the virus, expecting widespread vaccinations to begin only by mid-2021 and stressing that it would not endorse an unsafe vaccine.
While over eight vaccine candidates are currently undergoing phase 3 trials out of more than 30 such candidates worldwide, some have expedited delivery timelines. The first batch of the Russian ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine is due to be delivered to all regions in Russia as of today, a week after it entered civil circulation.
Russia has said that over one billion people would receive its vaccine in 2020-21. Several Indian companies are in discussions with Russia over manufacturing the vaccine in India.