Will the coronavirus vaccine be available to all?

Will the coronavirus vaccine be available to all?

As the world stays inside and waits for a vaccine against coronavirus, one of the largest pandemic health innovation funding bodies has raised the alarm over inequity if a vaccine arrives.

"We now have to think about issues around vaccine sovereignty," Jane Halton told 7.30 .

"How do we ensure that the vulnerable populations around the world will get access to a vaccine?"

Jane Halton is the former head of the Australian Department of Health and the chair of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI).

The organisation is attempting to avoid what happened in 2009, where wealthy countries entered in contracts with big pharmaceutical companies and effectively monopolised the H1N1 swine flu vaccine at the expense of poorer nations.

"Everybody will want this vaccine, everybody will want to be vaccinated to reduce their risk," she said.

"So we have to negotiate this."

According to CEPI, there are six candidates for a vaccine in clinical development right now. There are two in the US, three in China and one in the United Kingdom, with the UK trial expecting to begin testing on humans today.

However, Paul Kershawn, head of Johnson and Johnson Asia Pacific Medical Affairs has warned that the vaccine is developing in an “extremely compressed time frame”.

"We're accustomed to developing vaccines over a period of five, seven or even more years," he told 7.30.

"And so doing this in 12 to 18 months is an extremely compressed timeframe.

"It's basically an inactivated virus that allows us to deliver antibodies, creating the presence of antibodies which will fight the virus in patients.

"It's a very safe vector. It's something that we have experience with.”

However, the process is expensive and long, which means companies will be looking to market the drug and recoup costs.

"That is the nature of drug development. It's a risky business," Mr Kershaw said.

"We can't wait to finish the clinical trials and then start developing on manufacturing and distributing the vaccine. What we need to do is both of those activities in parallel."

As for the 115 possible vaccines in development? It’s possible that multiple vaccines might succeed.

"There will likely be a number of vaccines that become available," he said.

"And that's all the better. We're playing a part."