COVID-19 vaccine in one year ‘wishful thinking’

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Metamorworks)
(Image: Getty/Metamorworks)

Related tags COVID-19 Coronavirus Moderna Johnson & johnson Astrazeneca

The likelihood of an effective vaccine being developed and scaled up in less than 12 months is unrealistic, suggests GlobalData analyst.

With a number of big pharma companies announcing efforts and partnerships​ to rapidly develop vaccines, hopes of an effective one emerging within the year is running high.

GlobalData, a data analytics company, conducted a poll asking its healthcare readership the likelihood of a vaccine being developed in the next 12 months, with 52% being very confident and a further 28% being somewhat confident.

With 80% of respondents optimistic about the potential for the successful development of a vaccine in the next year, Michael Breen, associate director of infectious diseases at GlobalData, moved to calm such expectations.

Part of the reason for such confidence is the number of developments that have moved rapidly into the clinic, he suggested.

For example, Moderna became the first company to administer a vaccine​ to a person, after only 63 days.

It was not long before Moderna was followed by the University of Oxford, which then saw AstraZeneca quickly move to partner on the vaccine​.

Moving slightly slower, with a Phase I study slated for September 2020, was Johnson & Johnson – however, the pharma giant subsequently backed its vaccine by announcing a number of partnerships to bolster vaccine capacity​ to ready it for commercialization, ahead of any in-human readouts.

Though these efforts are reasons for hope, Breen noted that they were running at ‘substantially shorter’ R&D timespans than usual and have utilized new vaccine technology.

As a result, Breen cautioned that this technology is still in its infancy: “No vaccine using these technologies has ever been commercialized and data supporting their efficacy is thin, thus enthusiasm surrounding their likelihood of success may be met with disappointment.”

Further than this, there is still the issue of manufacturing at scale and then the difficulty in distributing the vaccine – hurdles that Breen suggested could add further delays.

“Ultimately, while it is technically possible for a COVID-19 vaccine to be available in 12 months, several factors portend this to be closer to wishful thinking than anything remotely certain,” ​Breen concluded.

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