A Light at the End of the Tunnel
By Rosana Dias Lancsarics | March 2021
Vaccines that promise prevention and spread of the coronavirus can be seen as a light at the end of the tunnel, one that so far has been a dark and deadly pathway to the unknown. Last year, with the beginning of the lockdown, a global race began to save humanity by developing a reliable and effective vaccine. Pharmaceutical companies, research facilities and institutions around the world have worked diligently and at a record-breaking pace to produce a vaccine, without financial restriction.
The United Kingdom was first to achieve this goal, with a vaccine produced by the consortium Pfizer (USA) and BioNTech(Germany). On December 8, 2020, photos of British 90-year-old Margaret Keenan (photo – Jacob King/Pool via AP), were shared globally as the first person to be vaccinated against COVID-19, on the planet. The momentous event occurred just ten months after the pandemic was declared.
After this pioneering action in the United Kingdom, other countries began vaccinating their citizens. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, gained global approval, along with patents developed by other Pharmaceutical companies as, Moderna, Novavax, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Oxford-AstraZeneca, Coronavac, and Sputnik.
At the beginning of February, 66 vaccines that were under development had already been listed, while 20 were in the final stage of trials, with a further 90 in their initial stage. During this time, 64 countries had vaccinated over 100 million people.
Despite the emergence of these new vaccine options, the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise devastatingly, with over 100 million infections and 2 million dead.
The rollout of vaccines has not been without challenges. Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, were delayed in recent weeks due to the retooling and expansion of Pfizer’s manufacturing facilities in Belgium. This unexpected interruption in shipments has greatly reduced rates of vaccination in Canada. The absence of local production facilities has created vulnerabilities and revealed the dangers of Canada’s reliance on external suppliers.
“We need as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible”, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on February 22nd. At this time, the Prime Minister announced a partnership between Canada and the American company, Novavax Inc., for the production of vaccines at a new government facility in Montreal, due for completion at year’s end. This makes the reality of a first ever, made-in-Canada, COVID-19 vaccine, available by the end of 2021. Additional vaccines could also be produced in Saskatchewan and Vancouver. GSK and Quebec-based, Canadian biopharmaceutical company, Medicago, have plans to produce a vaccine as well.
Lessons from the pandemic
The concerns over the lack of vaccines, and the challenge of obtaining approved masks and other PPE equipment, has brought attention to individual governments and their need to become more self-reliant and self-sufficient. Canada’s first homegrown vaccine to reach clinical trials is produced by Quebec’s Medicago Inc. It is expected to be authorized and available by the end of 2021.
Globalization has allowed concentrated production in fewer countries and the world has become overly dependent on them.
For pharmaceutical companies, together with other manufacturers and suppliers, the pandemic has elicited a humanitarian response while simultaneously increasing their financial worth. One example is the expected doubling of Pfizer-Biotech’s turnover to $1.3 billion USD in 2021. BioNTech’s market value has multiplied seven times in one year, reaching $26.9 billion USD, proof that the development and distribution of the vaccine has been synonymous with profit, for some.
Tracking the numbers
Do you like to track statistics in real-time? The pandemic has brought with it, new modalities of applications which can track the number of coronavirus cases both locally and globally: the number of new cases, the number of resolved cases, resulting deaths, and the numbers vaccinated.
Checking it out:
Portugal – www.sns24.gov.pt
Brazil – https://covid.saude.gov.br/
From the media:
We invite you to read the latest edition of Discover magazine
March 2021 : https://www.magazinediscover.com/discover-digital/