Saturday, July 11, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic: why the US is ahead of the vaccine

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The United States has maneuvered itself into the pole position in the development and manufacture of vaccines in the corona crisis. The US government primarily relies on production capacity.

By Arthur Landwehr, ARD Studio Washington

The pharmaceutical company Sanofi had previously given a hint that the company now assumes that a large part of a possible vaccine will first go to the USA. The development of a vaccine against the coronavirus is one thing – making billions of injections with it is something else. And if the EU did not help soon, it was said to equip factories for this, the United States threatened to secure capacity for itself.

Securing production capacity, says US President Donald Trump, is exactly what he is focusing on.

“We are now building up the supply routes even though we don’t have a vaccine yet. Johnson and Johnson does that, we have many companies.”

Billions of vaccine doses are needed

The leadership is led by the US agency for biomedical research and development, or Barda for short. It already concludes contracts with mass producers worldwide and works with US companies for this purpose. For example, over $ 400 million went to “Moderna” in Massachusetts, which is already testing a vaccine. This company has signed a supply contract for one billion vaccine doses with the Swiss manufacturer Lonza.

“The third step is production,” says Moderna boss Stephane Bancel. “If you can only make a few million cans, it doesn’t help with such a complicated global problem.”

Production may start in July

Lonza works worldwide and has production facilities on several continents. The joint production may already start in July in the USA – even if approval is still far away and you may have to destroy an entire batch again. Right, says Anthony Fauci, chief virologist, the top virologist in the United States.

“We are ramping up production with the companies involved. At risk, we do not wait for an answer until we start production.”

But: who distributes the vaccine? The European approach assumes that it is distributed fairly around the world together with the World Health Organization (WHO). Trump has just broken with the WHO; the United States is not involved in the European vaccine initiative.

US government wants to decide on distribution

There is an indication of how to deal with the highly-hoped remdesivir from the US manufacturer Gilead. The condition for the fast approval by the American drug agency FDA was that only the US government decides on the distribution – an unprecedented condition. The manufacturer then donated all of its inventory to the United States government, which distributed it to six states.

What if the first effective and safe vaccine is not developed in the United States? Wonderful, says Trump. “Then I take my hat off to them.” The only thing that matters is that the world gets a vaccine. But that is exactly the subject of many media discussions: if the United States goes its own way, taking care of itself first of all, if it maintains conflicts with those with whom cooperation would now be necessary – they will then be left out, for example China the winner of the race is?




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