COVID-19 Vaccines – Who Will Get the Shot and When?

August 21, 2020 – The race to find a vaccine for COVID-19 is on! Competition to find an effective defense against the virus has increased and accelerated the speed of development to a record pace. Six candidates have already reached Phase 3 trials.

The front-runner candidate in the COVID-19 race is a vaccine from the University of Oxford in the U.K. News reports indicate this effort may deliver Phase 3 clinical trial results by the end of November or early December. Quick review by the regulators is likely to follow. A manufacturing partner in India is already planning to produce 300-400 million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020. Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, currently in Phase 3 trials, are likely to enter mass production phase by year-end or early 2021.

The sum of global COVID-19 vaccine production targets by the end of 2020, based on manufacturer announcements, is around 400-500 million doses. For 2021, announced production targets are 10.1-10.7 billion doses. With a global population of 7.8 billion, who will be the first to get the shot and when?

COVID-19 vaccine pre-orders by major economies and vaccine alliances total 3.05 billion doses. The U.S. and Europe have placed the largest amount of orders at 800 million doses each, followed by Japan (490 million), and the U.K. (340 million). This indicates the distribution of early vaccine outputs will be prioritized to the developed market region in the first half of 2021. Meanwhile, a vaccine alliance, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is making efforts to secure a timely supply of vaccines in the same time frame in the emerging  market region. Local vaccine manufacturing capacity and local-developed vaccines may ease vaccine supply conditions in the emerging market region in 2021.

Downside risk to the expected production volume for 2021 could be a potential failure in final delivery from major vaccine candidates, whose annual production targets are 1-2 billion doses each. Upside risk to production volume could arise from a potential expansion of China’s and other emerging market economies’ production capacity.

Given concerns over addition waves of the virus, significant uncertainties remain regarding clinical evaluations, the regulators’ approval and the manufacturing process of vaccine candidates even before reaching the distribution stage. Thus, the latest COVID-19 vaccine developments still suggest several risk factors in a long road back to economic normalcy.