Corona vaccine: fight for worldwide distribution | World | DW


The authorities in Europe could approve a vaccine against the coronavirus later this year. Three pharmaceutical companies have already submitted corresponding applications. Emergency approvals are also being worked on in the USA. And the contracts were signed long before the authorities gave the green light: The USA and European countries have secured billions in vaccine doses, including from Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, CureVac and SanofiGSK.

If all of these companies were approved, the EU would have more than enough vaccines to immunize the population – even if it took multiple doses per person.

However, many countries in the global south, such as Africa, Asia and Latin America, do not have the money to conclude direct contracts with pharmaceutical companies. These countries will have to rely on the COVAX vaccine initiative. COVAX is a program of the World Health Organization (WHO), the global vaccination alliance Gavi and the coalition for innovations in epidemic prevention CEPI. Their goal: fair access to corona vaccines for people in poorer countries too.

Without Russia, without the USA

Some states and non-governmental organizations have already supported COVAX with financial commitments. The equivalent of two billion US dollars has already been collected for the purchase and distribution of vaccines, says COVAX. The European Union has pledged 500 million euros. The USA and Russia have not yet participated.

COVAX aims to make one billion doses of vaccine available to low to middle income countries by the end of 2021. This could immunize around a fifth of their population.

“It will be a historic effort to make this a reality,” says Dr. Frederik Kristensen, Vice-Head of CEPI, in an interview with DW. The WHO has already announced that it will give priority to some countries in accordance with its guidelines on fair distribution. Countries that are more at risk of COVID-19 than others could therefore be given vaccines first.

Cold is crucial

Pfizer and Moderna have manufacturing facilities in the United States and some in Europe. The storage and transport of vaccines to more distant countries will be a major challenge. Pfizer’s vaccine will require extremely cold storage temperatures of minus 80 degrees Celsius. This requires special cooling systems that are currently not available in many parts of Africa and Asia.

In demand worldwide: a vaccine against COVID-19

But the distribution of vaccines that do not require extremely cold storage temperatures is also associated with a high logistical effort. According to a study by the German logistics group DHL, 15,000 cargo planes are likely to be needed to transport corona vaccines to all parts of the world.

Some Latin American countries rely entirely on vaccines from China and Russia. The Russian vaccine Sputnik V, for example, was tested on volunteers in Brazil and Argentina. The governments of these countries have secured delivery guarantees for Sputnik V in return.

Vaccine power India

The British-Swedish company AstraZeneca could bring the breakthrough for COVAX. Their vaccine, which they developed together with the University of Oxford, would be easy and cheap to manufacture and could be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures. However, doubts about its effectiveness have recently arisen due to errors in trials. If further tests confirm its effectiveness, then this vaccine could herald a turning point in the fight against COVID-19, especially for developing countries.

Infographic COVID-19 vaccine production capacities DE

AstraZeneca wants the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, to produce one billion doses of its corona vaccine. Production capacities in different parts of the world are seen as a crucial factor in ensuring the equitable distribution of vaccines.

“Solving Fundamental Problems”

This is also the focus of efforts for the COVAX program: “Part of our plan is that every vaccine is manufactured in at least two countries, says Kristensen.” So it is not just about expanding production capacities to meet demand can. It’s also about being able to move production from one place to another so that you can be closer to where vaccines are needed. “

Rasmus Bech Hansen is the managing director of Airfinity, which evaluates data on the production capacities of pharmaceutical companies. He sees the coronavirus pandemic as an important test for the future. “We should now think about how the capacity for vaccine production can be expanded, and that worldwide,” he told DW. “We should use this pandemic to solve fundamental vaccine distribution problems.”

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