The coronavirus pandemic continues to rage through much of the globe – but relief may be in sight. Buoyed by government grants, research groups are closing in on potentially safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Leading candidates are beginning to enter their Phase 3 late-stage trials. If successful, these vaccines could be available for use by the end of the year. While 2020 may feel like an eternity to the average person, the speed at which these vaccines came into existence is unheard of. In fact, the development cycle accelerated to the point where some are wary of the vaccine itself.
In August 2020, Russia announced that it had developed the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, dubbed “sputnik.” Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that the vaccine has been utilized by his own daughter. However, many global health officials are very weary of the sputnik vaccine, citing safety and confidence concerns.
Yet, the most important aspect of the vaccine will be the cost. A prohibitively expensive candidate risks government intervention. As such, most of the leading vaccines prices are in the $19 to $40 range per dose. Moderna’s, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA) vaccine appears to set the upper limit of this range, currently expected to cost up to $37 based on a “small order.” These numbers represent the cost to the U.S. government specifically – most Americans will not pay for a vaccine, if they are part of the national vaccination campaign.
Factors that Allowed Rapid Vaccine Development
The unprecedented speed of coronavirus vaccine research depends on two major factors. First, governments are dumping an immense amount of capital into research programs. Research includes over 200 vaccine candidates, many of which received majority funding from government grants. Considering COVID-19’s impact on the global economy, this comes as no surprise.
The larger boost comes from prior research. While the original SARS outbreak paled in comparison to COVID-19, it did spur research into appropriate vaccines. The current coronavirus shares similarities with the original SARS virus – COVID-19’s full name is SARS-CoV-2. Leading vaccine candidates used that prior research to vault ahead in the race for a solution.
The Continued Impact of the Coronavirus
In the United States alone, over 160,000 people have died from COVID-19. Accounting for the entire world, the number exceeds 750,000. While the United States government makes a desperate attempt to ignore the virus by pressuring Americans to return to work and school, the numbers continue to spike. Millions have lost their jobs and now face looming evictions. Many countries saw their GDP contract by a record percentage in the second quarter of 2020.
A successful, mass-produced vaccine is the only long-term COVID-19 solution. Until that happens, the world will continue to grapple with the realities of social distancing, masks and remote work. Ultimately, the pandemic will result in permanent changes to how we live and work.
Article By: Adam Stone