Thursday, September 10, 2020

What are the innovation challenges to scaling vaccine manufacturing?

By Nicholson Price, Rachel Sachs, Jacob S. Sherkow, and Lisa Larrimore Ouellette

Many worries dog the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. Is the FDA going to bow to political pressure and possibly approve a vaccine prematurely? How much will a vaccine be rewarded by governments and how will it be allocated to patients? How will distribution work, when the world faces potential supply-chain shortages ranging from glass vials to low-temperature freezers to manage the challenging cold chain? Will enough people take the vaccine to reach herd immunity? Can the government overcome the understandable skepticism of many Black Americans toward a vaccine produced by a medical system with a long history of systemic racism

Alongside these concerns is another substantial challenge: how are firms going to make hundreds of millions—eventually billions—of doses quickly and effectively? As one of us (NP) recently discussed in work with Professors Arti Rai and Timo Minssen, vaccine manufacturing is hard, and the world needs it to happen fast. How should innovation policy scholars and policymakers think about this issue?