Business Opportunities in COVID-19 Vaccine Development

Doctor giving vaccine

As governments across the world struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, it has created and fast-tracked COVID-19 vaccine development. The world will need billions of people to be vaccinated to establish herd immunity. The COVID-19 impact on the vaccine development business has been substantial and will continue to be as new variants mutate and spread.

This article will explore the impact of vaccines and their distribution as it attempts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, identifying the strengths, weaknesses, and impact on the vaccine development market.

Vaccine Vendors

Typically, vaccines can take over ten years to develop, but the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic allowed governments to authorize Emergency Use Authorization status to fast track a COVID-19 vaccine. The World Health Organization cites 99 COVID-19 vaccines in clinical development and an additional 296 vaccines in pre-clinical stages.

The top fifteen vaccine vendors for COVID-19 include:

  • Pfizer
  • Moderna
  • Janssen
  • AstraZeneca
  • Bharat Biotech
  • CanSino Biological
  • Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology
  • The Vector Institute
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac Biotech
  • Curevac & GlaxoSmithKline
  • Inovio
  • GSK & Vir Biotechnology
  • Novavax
  • Israel Institute for Biological Research

To stop the spread of the virus and develop herd immunity, these COVID-19 vaccine vendors are expected to produce one to three billion doses.

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Vaccine Distribution

While the vendors are responsible for the vaccine, according to the CDC, vaccine distribution is handled by:

  • Federal agencies
  • Pharmacy partners
  • State and local jurisdictions

These groups are responsible for determining and ordering vaccine quantities from the vendors and determining shipping to designated vaccination locations enrolled in the COVID-19 Vaccination Program. The Vaccine Tracking System (VTrckS) enables the distributors to track and manage vaccine distribution and delivery.

Opportunities for Vaccine Distribution

As we work toward herd immunity, many of the developed countries are making great strides by:

  • Providing several vaccine options across their countries, making the COVID-19 vaccine very accessible.
  • Reimbursing or reducing the cost of the vaccine so that it isn’t cost-prohibitive.
  • Providing liability protection to the manufacturers, enabling the vaccine to be developed quicker.
  • Working toward providing vaccines that are safe and effective for children.

Thomas Denny, COO, Duke Human Vaccine Institute said, “We need to be excited and pleased where the science has got us in a very short period of time … we’ve made a remarkable achievement.”

Still, more can be done to help other less developed countries and toward increasing distribution. There are a few roadblocks that are hindering distribution.

Alt Img Text: holding COVID vaccine

Pitfalls of Vaccine Distribution

There are several pitfalls of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution that has to do with economics. 

Affordability

More prosperous and developed countries, like the United States, can afford to develop, produce, and distribute the vaccine more quickly than poorer countries. They can also provide the vaccine to their citizens for free, where poorer countries can’t afford to vaccinate their population, making it only available to those who can afford it.

But in an age of air travel, all countries need access to the vaccine to stop the spread and achieve herd immunity.

We need to incentivize richer countries to help the poorer countries. David McAdams, Duke professor, said, “The most important is through transferring know-how and capabilities. We’ve already seen this in the relationship between the Oxford vaccine with the SERUM institute in India. That’s a planned relationship where AstraZeneca is scrambling to produce doses … the SERUM Institute is standing up facilities for a planned billion doses that will go to people in India and other low-income countries.”

Until we work together, it will be a long time before the pandemic subsides.

Vaccine Misinformation

With so many voices competing with conflicting information over the internet, social media, the media, government, and healthcare, it is increasingly difficult for citizens to discern the truth about the vaccine being safe to take. In fact, the Edelman Trust Barometer sites, “An epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of world leaders and societal institutions has lead to an environment of information bankruptcy.” 

Global trust is down 8 points globally.

Because the vaccine clinical trials have been fast-tracked and some patients had adverse reactions, there has been hesitancy to get the vaccine despite its availability. As more people get the vaccine and determine that it is safe for themselves, then other people will be more inclined to get it. But this may take time.

Dangerous New Strains

As the COVID-19 virus mutates, more and more deadly strains spread throughout the populations regardless of immunization. “We are seeing multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that are different from the version first detected in China,” said Dr. Stuart Ray, a leading expert in SARS-CoV-2 for John Hopkins Medicine. 

In July 2021, the delta variant is considered the most contagious form of SARS-CoV-2, where even the vaccinated can spread the variant. Dr. Stuart Ray also warned, “Ray says, “There is evidence from laboratory studies that some immune responses driven by current vaccines could be less effective against some of these variants.”

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Alt Img Text: Vaccine research and development trays

Vaccine Administration

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with federal agencies, state, local, and public health departments to distribute and administer the COVID-19 vaccination. The CDC closely monitors and reports vaccine distribution through their COVID-19 Vaccination IT Overview.

Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Helping

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, as of June 2021, over three billion people have been vaccinated. And while the vaccine has reduced the severity and duration of the illness, it has had a hard time stopping the spread of new coronavirus variants that are cropping up worldwide. 

In a Foreign Policy op-ed, the World Health Organization Director, General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Despite the growing number of vaccine options, current manufacturing capacity meets only a fraction of global need. Vaccines are the best chance of bringing this pandemic under control—unless leaders succumb to vaccine nationalism.” If we leave large global populations unprotected, the vaccine will be self-defeating.

COVID-19 Impact on Business of Vaccine Development

According to BioProcess International, the world will need one to 8 billion doses to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. At $50-100 a dose, the COVID-19 pandemic has grown the market opportunity of vaccine development to $100-200 billion.

Pre-COVID, pharma and biopharma companies were growing at a rate of 5-6%. Post-COVID, these companies are projecting to grow between 6-9%. Although, with over 290 vaccines in some form of release or trial, it will be interesting to see who will succeed.

Growing Opportunity for Vaccine Development

With restrictions lifted and government-enabled, vaccine vendors are racing to find the strongest, safest vaccine to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Larger, developed countries should help poorer countries develop, distribute, and vaccinate their populations to contain the virus. We will need cooperation moving forward, or more variants will mutate, making COVID-19 a persistent problem for years to come.

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