The current pandemic brought on by COVID-19 is a threat to humanity. From the onset of the coronavirus, efforts to eradicate it are underway. A vaccine that can be quickly accessed by all is necessary.
Historically, many illnesses have been dealt with and eradicated in parts of the world through vaccines. It takes decades to develop vaccines. The pharmaceuticals are in dire straits in coming up with an efficient vaccine.
There are trials to be conducted, the success of which is negligible.
A lot of funds in the risky project of coming up with the vaccine require many funds. The economy has been affected globally. Therefore, the industry has surmountable challenges as it is.
Historically, medical advancements have happened fast during a health crisis posed to humanity. It was during WWII, in the late 1930s, that antibiotics became large-scale. Later, the technique began genetic engineering in the 1970s.
The process of creating a vaccine is expensive. The risks also include the aspect of administering it to healthy human beings. Further, when it comes to viruses, they tend to mutate, and thus the effectiveness of containing the disease in the long term is questionable.
With these facts in perspective, the pharma markets will be affected in many ways.
How the coming coronavirus vaccine might shake up the pharma markets
There is little time from innovation to when the supply of the vaccine, in the pharma market. What is required is for many pharmaceuticals to invest by booking or making pre-purchase agreements.
Meanwhile, the clinical trials are not yet complete, and the evaluations have not yet happened. The goal is to avail as many vaccines as possible after they get approved.
Governments are also taking risks of getting into agreements with pharmaceutical firms. They usually depend on money from the public to price the medicine tailor-made for that country.
Some pharmacies are already making demands for the government to agree that the vaccines will have specific prices. They would also like shared expenses with the government, for example, Sanofi Pasteur.
There are various ways of producing the vaccine that is in motion. Scientists are looking at the fastest ways of getting the work done. The usual way of doing things was to make the pathogen inactive. Or create one that was similar to it. The process is long and still getting developed more than 100 years later.
It is highly likely for the pathogen to mutate into a more dangerous version of itself. Also, the process of inactivating it might fail. Or it could accidentally get released in the process. It could be risky for the person receiving it and the one involved in the production process.
Partnerships have formed
AstraZeneca bio-pharmaceutical is partnering with Oxford University and Vax Hub. They hope to come up with pocket-friendly vaccines.
The market is becoming less competitive and more collaborative. There are more partnerships and co-operation between the academic, commercial, and regulatory partners. Companies have also joined up.
BioNTech SE, a company based in Germany, has joined forces with the USA’s well-known pharmaceutical, Pfizer. This way, they were able to pool resources. The success of their partnership is evident with the successful trials they have gotten so far with the vaccine candidates.
Regulations in the market
There are bound to be new rules to regulate the marketing and distribution of the vaccines in the pharma market. There are high chances that the pharmaceutical industry might get overwhelmed with the demand for the vaccines. Developing countries are likely to suffer because of the prevalence of poverty.
On May 13, Sanofi Pasteur, a pharmaceutical in France, was keen to point out that they would first send their vaccines if approved to the USA because they were the first to invest in the research that went to its development.
In dealing with this tug of war that was brewing regarding the coronavirus vaccine, the World Health Assembly made a resolution supported by 130 countries requiring equal accessibility to treatments and vaccines against COVID-19. It is a temporary solution.
The real issue is that most developing countries do not have the required resources to participate in the production of the vaccines. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Health Organization (WHO), think that help should be availed to developing countries to enable them to manufacture needful medical stuff like vaccines, protective gear, and antibiotics.
So far, Thailand and India in Asia have succeeded in developing a pharmaceutical industry that is up to the quality standards required internationally. Unfortunately, Africa, where the least developed countries are, is largely untapped.
The needed pharmaceutical ingredients required by producers in the East African Community (EAC) are hard to obtain due to restrictions associated with the pandemic. WHO and UNCTAD are on a mission to help Ethiopia and EAC governments come up with the right policies.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, seems to support the opinion that developing countries should be empowered to come up with their vaccines. Because poverty-stricken countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa would suffer if vaccine distribution is according to those with greater market power.
A flood of innovations
Over 230 vaccines are underway. Most of them are using new, unproven technologies.
The process has risks involved. However, the urgency to contain the coronavirus outweighs the risks involved.
The type of vaccines in development is new. They involve introducing the genetic material of the virus directly or using another virus as a vehicle. Thirty-four clinical trials are currently underway. Half of these have used the described method.
This new way has the advantage of speed.
The coronavirus vaccine is bound to shake up the pharma market. Without efficient regulatory mechanisms, countries with greater financial strength might hoard the innovations for themselves.
The less-developed nations may find themselves left out of the picture. Unfortunately, the developing countries have not been able to join in coming up with a coronavirus vaccine. Hope lies in the plea of some of the world leaders and influential personalities.
The vaccine should be pocket-friendly so that the poor can also access it.