According to Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert in China, the reason for fast-tracking a vaccine was made clear in an interview with Chinese tech giant Baidu:
Natural immunity needs 60 to 70 per cent of a country’s population to be infected by the novel coronavirus, which could cause a death toll of 30 to 40 million....The [only] solution is still mass vaccination.
On the subject of herd immunity, where a population can become entirely immune from a pathogen once a critical percentage of the population is vaccinated, Zhong stated herd immunity "still depends on the development of vaccines. Large-scale vaccination will take one to two years. The new vaccine can be used in an emergency as early as this autumn or the end of the year."
This all relies on the public being receptive to taking the vaccine at all. In recent polls, 25% of Americans responded they would not take the vaccine.
Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shared Zhong's optimism for timelines
We are in the frontline for the vaccine development, and we may have a vaccine ready for emergency use by September.
Shanghai vaccine expert Tao Lina stated certain types of vaccines may benefit from a faster development track than others:
Inactivated ones usually need two or three doses while other technologies might need only one dose. Vaccines using DNA or RNA technology are likely to enter trials later than inactivated vaccines, but it is easier to expand production capacity for these...
Billions of vaccines
Meanwhile, producing these vaccines has become increasingly urgent as timelines hasten. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stated we will have 100M doses by the end of the year. AstraZeneca is promising so many vaccines, 1 billion by the end of 2020 to be exact, they have already started production despite the vaccines still undergoing safety trials.
When Dina Bair for WGN9 News spoke with Anthony Fauci this week, Fauci expounded on the accelerated timeline:
By the beginning of July we’re gonna go into Phase III trial for efficacy. That is overwhelmingly the fastest ever from the time any new infection was discovered to the time you actually went into a large vaccine trial. Instead of waiting to see if a vaccine works and then make the tens if not hundreds of millions of doses that you’d like to distribute, we’re gonna start making the doses now, assuming it’s going to work. And if it does, then we’ve saved several months. Hopefully, by the end of this calendar year or the beginning of 2021, hopefully we’ll have doses of vaccine to be able to distribute.
Do we have enough glass?
In all this haste, an article this week in Poynter acknowledged the elephant in the room: What do we put these billions of emergency vaccines in?
Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca spoke on a conference call last week saying frankly, "The challenge is not so much to make the vaccine itself, it’s to fill vials....There’s not enough vials in the world."
Paul Stoffels, the Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson and Johnson was perfectly blunt speaking last Thursday, "Getting to five or 10 vaccines per vial is probably going to be essential to be able to cope with the volume....The capacity is not there to do it in the billions."