Believe it or not, developing a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t the only challenge we will face in trying to get everyone vaccinated and protected against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Once one or more COVID-19 vaccines are finally found to be safe and effective and are licensed and approved, there are the challenges of making, distributing, and actually getting folks vaccinated!
COVID-19 Vaccine Challenges
We are all well aware of the first challenge – developing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
“In April, CEPI researchers identified 115 vaccine candidates against COVID-19 that were at varying stages of development. In an update to this analysis, we report in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery that, in the space of 5 months, this number has nearly tripled to 321 vaccine candidates. 32 of which are now in clinical trials, including eight candidates backed by CEPI.”321 vaccine candidates against COVID-19 now in development
But with six COVID-19 vaccine candidates already in the most advanced phase III clinical trials, it should be clear that we will face these challenge sooner rather than later.
So what’s next?
We need systems in place to:
- make hundreds of millions of doses of these COVID-19 vaccines, which requires a lot of different supplies and ingredients, from rubber stoppers and glass vials to needles and syringes
- have sterility and potency tests available to make sure the vaccines are safe and effective after they are made
- distribute all of these COVID-19 vaccines from manufacturers to giant freezer farms and then to the health care providers at clinics, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies or to whoever will actually be getting folks vaccinated and protected
- make sure all of the COVID-19 vaccines are stored properly, at their proper temperatures
- track who has been vaccinated and how many doses they have received (Immunization Information Systems and the Immunization Gateway)
- monitor folks who have been vaccinated for adverse reactions (VAERS/Vaccine Safety Datalink)
In general, it doesn’t sound too hard, after all, we did it during the H1N1 pandemic and we do it each and every year during flu season, right?
Well, not to the scale we are going to have to do it for the COVID-19 pandemic!
We are talking about hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines (billions if you think globally…) and we are learning some things about the COVID-19 vaccines that might present some challenges we haven’t seen before.
Challenges the average health care provider who has a vaccine and freezer full of vaccines might not want to think about.
What are those challenges?
For one thing, we are hearing that some of the COVID-19 vaccines that might be approved need to stored in a vaccine freezer, unlike most other vaccines that are stored in vaccine refrigerators.
And not just any kind of vaccine freezer.
“Moderna’s vaccine needs to be shipped and stored at -20 C (minus four Fahrenheit), while the Pfizer/BioNTech one needs to be at -70 C (-94 F). The former is enough of a challenge – freezer temperatures instead of refrigerator ones. But the latter. . .well, biology research labs all have freezers that go down that far (it’s where cell culture samples, oligonucleotide constructs, and recombinant proteins get stored), but you’re not going to find one down at the local pharmacy, which is perhaps where you were picturing lining up for a coronavirus shot.”Cold Chain (And Colder Chain) Distribution
A freezer that can keep vaccines at ultra-low temperatures.
“I believe that upcoming stability data will support storage conditions that are not much different from any other vaccine,” said Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech. As a “matter of caution”, early batches of a vaccine are shipped in frozen temperatures, he added.Covid-19 vaccine delivery faces problems, warns DHL
Hopefully, we will eventually move to having COVID-19 vaccines that only require simple refrigeration though.
Until then, COVID-19 vaccines can be stored in their ultra-cold vaccine shipment boxes, using dry ice as needed to keep the boxes cold.
While it is certainly more complicated than anything we are used to, it is definitely doable!
And like it or not, we still have time to get things ready to meet all of these challenges.
A COVID-19 vaccine won’t be approved tomorrow, next week, or next month.
More on COVID-19 Vaccine Challenges
- Reasons to Be Confident in a COVID-19 Vaccine
- Vaccine Testing and Development Timeline and Myths
- About That Russian COVID-19 Vaccine…
- Understanding COVID-19 Misinformation
- QAnon Vaccine Conspiracy Theories
- Can Vaccines Alter Your DNA?
- How To Counter Vaccine Hesitancy
- A Comprehensive COVID-19 Vaccine Plan
- Experts Highlight COVID-19 Vaccine Developments and Remaining Challenges
- A Top Vaccine Expert Answers Important Questions About a COVID-19 Vaccine
- A Framework for Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus
- FDA – Development and Licensure of Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19
- ACIP Presentation Slides: August 2020 Meeting
- ACIP Presentation Slides: July 2020 Meeting
- ACIP Presentation Slides: June 2020 Meeting
- COVID-19 Prevention Network
- Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV)
- COVAX: Ensuring global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines
- COVID-19 vaccine tracker
- WHO – Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines
- 321 vaccine candidates against COVID-19 now in development
- The latest in the COVID-19 vaccine race
- Cold Chain (And Colder Chain) Distribution
- Covid-19 vaccine delivery faces problems, warns DHL
- Delivering super-cooled COVID-19 vaccine a daunting challenge for some countries
- Why cold chain tracking and IoT sensors are vital to the success of a COVID-19 vaccine
- Shortage Of Dry Ice Could Chill Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution
- COVID-19 vaccines: early success and remaining challenges
- Merck CEO Ken Frazier Discusses a COVID Vaccine, Racism, and Why Leaders Need to Walk the Talk
- The challenges of developing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine
- Top ethicist makes the case for COVID-19 vaccine challenge trials