How The COVID-19 Vaccine Was Developed And Is Being Distributed. Jan 15, 2021, Part 1
How Did A Vaccine Get Developed In Less Than A Year?
From the first discovery of a strange new respiratory virus in Wuhan, China, in January of 2020, it took less than a year to get a vaccine into the arms of frontline healthcare workers. More than two dozen vaccine candidates have made it from basic safety trials to Phase 3, where efficacy against COVID-19 is tested. That’s particularly remarkable as before the pandemic, it was rare for a vaccine to take fewer than 5 years from start to finish.
The extraordinary speed of these critical developments is thanks to decades and decades of previous work, including research on the original SARS virus, and even HIV.
Ira talks to two researchers who have contributed to COVID-19 vaccines about the foundations these innovations rest on, and how increased resources and collaboration helped save time in 2020. How COVID-19's Vaccine Development Will Benefit Future Vaccines
For months, much of the world’s attention has been on COVID-19 vaccines—people want to know when they will come, how well will they work, and when can I get one?
Fortunately, the pharmaceutical industry has rapidly developed and tested multiple vaccines for SARS-CoV2. Now, the discovery that two vaccines based on messenger RNA technology have over 94% efficacy is drawing attention to new ways to think about vaccines. We’ve come a long way from the days of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine used by Salk, or the attenuated virus vaccines developed by Sabin.
Ira talks to vaccine researcher Paul Duprex and biotech reporter Ryan Cross about how these new developments improve our ability to fight infectious disease, and looks ahead to where the future of vaccine development might lie. West Virginia Leads In Race To Distribute Vaccines
Healthcare workers have had mixed success getting COVID-19 vaccines into people’s arms across the U.S. A big reason for the unequal rollout is the lack of federal requirements for who gets vaccinated, and in what order. There are, however, federal recommendations—for example, this week Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recommended that vaccination strategies should prioritize people age 65 and older. But states are on their own when it comes to distribution, resulting in 50 different plans.
One of the states with the highest percentages of residents vaccinated for COVID-19 is West Virginia. Though it’s predominantly rural, the state’s high population of elderly people has resulted in a large-scale, largely successful effort to reach its residents.
New York state, on the other hand, has been less successful. Bureaucratic infighting between state and city officials delayed vaccination, and many residents eligible for vaccination are turning down the opportunity, citing concerns about safety.
Joining Ira to talk about COVID-19 vaccine distribution are Fred Mogul, health and government reporter for New York Public Radio in New York City and Dave Mistich, senior reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting in Morgantown.