A great increase in vaccine-making production capacity is needed globally, if billions of people in Ibero-America, Africa, and Asia are to have access to COVID-19 vaccines in a timely fashion to save tens of millions of lives—and if those populations are not to be made into a petri dish for breeding new mutations and new viruses to reinfect nations who survived the first round.
The following is a preliminary look at existing production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, and what emergency measures and new construction would be needed to ensure success.
In a Dec. 8 interview with Bloomberg television, Rasmus Bech Hansen, founder and CEO of Airfinity, a life-sciences analytics firm that is currently focusing on SAR-CoV-2 virus, said that 6 billion of the world’s present 7.8 billion people would need to be vaccinated in order for COVID-19 to be defeated. This involves mass vaccination for about 75% of the world’s population.
But that is not occurring; the developing sector is, for the most part, being left out of plans for immediate or near-term vaccination. This means death for them, and continuing danger of contagion for the entire human race. A Nov. 30 article in Nature magazine, entitled, “How COVID Vaccines Are Being Divvied Up Around the World,” reports that vaccine-makers specializing in COVID vaccines, “can make sufficient doses for more than one-third of the world’s population by the end of 2021. But many people in low-income countries might have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for vaccination, according to estimates from the Duke Global Health Innovation Center in Durham, North Carolina.”
Nature further reports that “27 members of the European Union, together with five rich countries, have pre-ordered about half [of vaccine doses]. The countries account for only around 13% of the global population.”
To gain a sense of overall production capacity, the estimated capacity for 2021 for the major vaccine-makers, in billions of doses, is: AstraZeneca, 3 billion; Pfizer/BioNTech, 1.3 billion; Moderna, 1 billion; Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology (which makes Russia’s Sputnik V), 800 million.
Other vaccine-makers, including Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Novanax, and others, may have the combined capacity to produce another 1.5 billion doses, bringing the total doses to 7.6 billion. But these figures may be overstated. For example, Russia does not have sufficient vaccine-making capacity inside Russia to make the vaccines it has committed to for foreign countries. Many pharma companies make projections of what they would like to produce, but do not reach them, and so forth.