How Close is a COVID-19 Vaccine? Manufacturers Have the Highest Demand for One
The prospect of a coronavirus vaccination has powerful effects in the current climate of uncertainty and panic. More than once, news of a potential vaccine has buoyed the stock market, while many legislators have begun clinging to an impending vaccination as hope for getting their state economies reopened and restarted. But the fact is, there’s no concrete timeline for a COVID-19 vaccine. The clock is ticking for many industries relying on it — manufacturing among them.
When will a vaccine arrive?
That’s the million-dollar question. Developing a coronavirus vaccine is being called “the biggest medical manufacturing challenge in history,” and for good reason. Every factor is against developers: time, demand, urgency, and more. And the problem is twofold. Even after the vaccine is developed, production remains a major concern as producers recover from the onslaught of the virus.
There have already been massive clinical trials of 10,000 to 30,000 for early rounds of potential vaccines. The results have been promising, but we’re still a long way off from seeing a major breakthrough. What’s more than likely to happen — and what many scientists have speculated since the beginning – is a multi-phase vaccination, similar to those for HPV, instead of a one-and-done, like current influenza vaccinations. For manufacturers, this prospect means a protracted manufacturing cycle.
Manufacturing is in a unique position
As an essential industry, manufacturers have kept their doors open throughout the pandemic, adapting to keep production moving while the rest of the economy all but shut down. This put manufacturing workers at a higher risk for contracting the virus — and in many cases, factories became hotspots.
But manufacturing’s essential status isn’t just a title. If and when a COVID-19 vaccination comes to fruition, manufacturers will lead the charge in bringing it to the masses. Pharmaceutical manufacturers will make the drug, medical supply producers will provide the deployment means, and various other manufacturers will play an essential role in the rollout of a cure.
It could be argued that manufacturing has more stake in a vaccination than any other industry, as both the hardest-hit and most-essential during this pandemic.
Preparing for the largest possible demand
The demand for a COVID-19 vaccine is so dire, manufacturers have begun planning multiple steps ahead to ensure expedited production. Production plans are already in the works and many key manufacturers — including vaccine developer Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. — are planning the logistics of a massive manufacturing ramp-up before a product is even viable.
This proactive planning isn’t just life-saving, it’s the key to ensuring rapid defense against a virus that’s still evolving, and threatens to continue infecting people seasonally. Cutting the ramp-up period by a significant margin could help producers get the vaccine quickly into the hands of people who need it most: elderly, immunocompromised, and those at a higher risk for exposure. For manufacturers, it also means keeping their operations up and running in the face of economic headwinds that threaten to blow them down.