20 Sep Coronavirus: Only one in 10 to be protected from COVID-19 in first year of vaccine use | UK News
Just one in 10 of the world’s population is likely to be protected against COVID-19 in the first year of a vaccine being made available, experts have told Sky News.
Analysis of global manufacturing capacity shows just two billion doses could be made in 2021, even if a vaccine was given the green light by safety regulators at the start of the year.
But with seven of the nine prototype vaccines in late-stage clinical trials requiring two doses, that’s likely to be enough to immunise only a little over 12% of the 7.8 billion people who need it.
Dr Cleo Kontoravdi, associate professor of chemical engineering at Imperial College London, told Sky News: “We have to be clear that in the first instance not everybody will have access to the vaccine. We do not have the manufacturing capacity.”
Calculations by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations show that even if manufacturing capacity doubled, as planned, over the next 12 months less than half the world’s population could be protected by the end of 2022.
It could mean some travel restrictions and social distancing will be needed for years to come, unless there is a game-changing advance in vaccine technology that speeds up production.
But making large amounts of vaccine is just one of many hurdles that will need to be overcome in the months ahead.
One of the biggest bottlenecks is traditionally at the “fill and finish” stage of production, when the vaccine is put in glass vials, labelled and packaged.
It needs several supply chains to converge seamlessly, with the final product meeting high quality standards. Any hiccup can cause delays.
Sky News was given access to Wockhardt’s plant in Wrexham, where a high-speed production line has been bought up by the government to produce a finished vaccine over the next 18 months.
Preparations are being made to start production of the Oxford vaccine as soon as November. Between two and three million vials, each containing eight doses, could be produced every month.
Ravi Limaye, Wockhardt’s UK managing director, said the vials will be quarantined until the vaccine is approved by safety regulators – but will have to be destroyed if for any reason it’s turned down.
“This is a risk that one has to take considering the enormity of this pandemic,” he said.
“This is an unprecedented step taken by the government in the interest of the UK to get the vaccine ready so that if it is approved by regulators it can be used straight away.
“It is a risk but a calculated risk.”