A vaccine in development to halt the coronavirus pandemic could be available as early as September – bringing a sliver of hope even as the total number of cases of Covid-19 recently crossed three million worldwide and deaths more than 218,000.
The trial of the vaccine developed by Dr Sarah Gilbert and her team from Oxford University has shown potentially promising results in rhesus macaque monkeys, and manufacturing has already started.
If it is indeed found to be effective in humans and made available in September, it will be a phenomenal feat of human endeavor.
In many cases, rival pharma majors have come together in unprecedented collaborations for a solution - the United Nations acknowledged the same last week when it joined forces with world leaders and the private sector to speed up development of vaccines and ensure equal access for all
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations – which is funding nine different coronavirus vaccine projects including the Oxford one – had earlier said a shot could take at least 18 months to be rolled out, which by itself was an ambitious target.
Developing the vaccine
The world will undoubtedly cling on to every minute details and every glimmer of hope in the next few months as Dr Gilbert and her team test the vaccine on more than 6,000 people.
A vaccine against coronavirus will potentially save millions of lives, and not just by preventing coronavirus.
With the devastating economic consequences of the pandemic, a vaccine is inexorably linked to chances of a swift global recovery and averting deep recessions in many large economies.
Japan, for instance, has suggested that it would be impossible to hold the already-delayed Tokyo Olympics even in 2021 without a vaccine being found.
Yet Dr Gilbert’s lab is only one among the several dozens of groups racing to develop the vaccine and there’s no certainty of a shot being effective in humans.
In many cases, rival pharma majors have come together in unprecedented collaborations for a solution - the United Nations acknowledged the same last week when it joined forces with world leaders and the private sector to speed up development of vaccines and ensure equal access for all.
As various vaccine projects enter critical phases, it will be vital to keep funding such collaborations – governments, philanthropists and foundations must all unite to support these ventures until there’s a breakthrough.
But the challenge doesn’t end there.
Once a vaccine is found, it needs to be manufactured and delivered on a commercial scale – and that’s where pharma companies must not be allowed to profiteer from the pandemic.
The international community must take adequate steps to safeguard the vaccine from private greed and ensure that it reaches everyone who needs it around the world. Only then will such landmark collaboration lead to a fruitful future for humanity.