As governments and pharmaceutical companies race to develop an effective vaccine for Covid-19 – one that would allow a gradual transition back to the life we knew – the global establishment finds itself drifting towards a series of stumbling blocks that, if left neglected, will undermine the meaningful scientific progress that is made in the coming months.
To hand humanity its best hope of combating this pandemic, the world must now ready itself for the logistical, political and ethical challenges that are set to arise in manufacturing and delivering a vaccine to billions of people. The assumption that one will be produced at all is optimistic – there are currently no vaccines available for the coronavirus family – but this shouldn’t deter us from preparing for what comes next.
There are numerous questions that health authorities and governing bodies must face as scientists creep closer to finding a cure: how will it be manufactured on a global scale? Who will be responsible for production? How will it be distributed? Will patents be abandoned? Will knowledge be shared? Will universal access be provided? Who will be prioritised? “What’s important in all this is that people think about these things now,” says Ellen ‘t Hoen, an expert in medicines policy and a researcher at the University Medical Centre Groningen. “Not when the vaccine becomes available as that’s too late.”
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