How can Covid-19 vaccines be produced quickly enough to respond to the pandemic?

Bottom Line:

The use of new vaccine development technologies and a ‘parallel approach’ to development, in which multiple steps of vaccine production are carried out simultaneously, could substantially increase the speed of vaccine production.

Reference:

Lurie N et al. Developing Covid-19 Vaccines at Pandemic Speed. New England Journal of Medicine (2020). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2005630

Date Published:

30 March 2020

Synopsis:

Vaccine development is an extensive and difficult process. Past disease outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika revealed that the standard approach to vaccine production is unable to create vaccines swiftly enough to respond to rapidly emerging diseases. Innovation is required to enable quicker vaccine production, and experts at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness have outlined specific innovations that could take place. First, companies could use new vaccine development technologies (also known as vaccine development ‘platforms’) that enable faster research. Platforms that require only the virus’s genetic information – as opposed to requiring the entire virus itself – are a promising option, as they circumvent the time-consuming step of growing the virus in large numbers. Second, multiple steps of vaccine production should be conducted simultaneously, such as beginning to manufacture the vaccine before clinical studies are completed so that if the study results are positive the vaccine can be immediately distributed. The development of a COVID-19 vaccine will be challenging even with these innovations, as scientists are still researching how best to target the virus and how to prevent major vaccine side effects. Fortunately, these obstacles are being tackled head-on, and some genetic material-based vaccine candidates are already undergoing clinical trials.

Summary by: Jacob Ferguson