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Opinion

Older Vaccine Platforms Maintain Supply Advantage: Bill Gates

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Covid-19 vaccines developed using a new messenger RNA platform, such as those from Moderna or Pfizer, have shown promise, but older platforms using inactivated or weakened viruses, such as Oxford-AstraZeneca’s, hold the upper hand for the public distribution due to easy scalability, cost and temperature stability, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates said Thursday.

In an exclusive interview, Gates addressed the challenge of equitably distributing vaccines between rich and poor countries, and he hoped the world could return to normal by the first half of 2022.

“I think we will raise the money and we will have the manufacturing capacity, and so that, you know, for the rich world in 2021 and for the world in general … in the first half of 2022, we should be able to get the coverage of the vaccine that largely ends this pandemic, ”he said, hours before the foundation announced a $ 250 million grant to fight Covid-19, bringing its total commitment to fighting the pandemic to 1,750 millions of dollars.

The comments came days after the UK, and later Canada, approved the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine for public distribution. Pfizer and Moderna used a new technology to build their vaccines that used a single strand of mRNA, which carries genetic information for protein synthesis and triggers an immune response in the patient’s body.

In contrast, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, which Gates hoped the UK would approve by the end of 2020, used a cold-causing virus isolated from chimpanzees that instigated human cells to produce the SARS-CoV spike protein- 2 and induce an immune response.

This vaccine, which is being produced locally by the Serum Institute of India, can be distributed more easily than mRNA vaccines that require storage at temperatures comparable to those in Antarctica.

Gates praised the fact that multiple vaccines were developed in less than 12 months after the pandemic.

“Now the mRNA platform is not a fully mature platform … The actual thermostability, cost and scalability of making an mRNA vaccine are not as good as they would be for AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. Some of the other builds the world knows how to climb, and 5-10 years from now, we’ll get the [mature] mRNA platform, [and it] it will eliminate those problems, ”he said.

With vaccine development in its late stages and many countries preparing for regulatory approval, the focus has shifted to public immunization, with many reports pointing out that rich countries made a huge leap forward in storage.

On Tuesday, a global campaign to distribute vaccines said that nine out of 10 people in poor countries could miss the opportunity to get vaccinated next year because some rich countries have accumulated 53% of all doses, much more than they need. .

Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation and one of the pioneers of the home computer revolution, admitted that equitable allocation of resources was a challenge, but stressed that having a second locally manufactured source, like SII, can mitigate the problem.

“The rich countries will get a little more than the initial allocations, but if we really push for these factories to work, then we can do it. [that] it’s not that big of a problem … So the only way to fix this is to get a lot of capacity, and that’s why it’s important that we have these vaccines that are cheaper and easier to scale – they get into the mix, “he said .

Currently, IBS is on track to produce 1 billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and 2 billion doses of the Novovax vaccine candidate. Johnson & Johnson, which is also developing a vaccine, is talking to other Indian companies to expand capacity.

Gates called Covax, an association of vaccine developers and countries established by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) and the World Health Organization, to be “a little slow” because the United States had not yet demonstrated until put money into the initiative.

Covax, in which rich countries essentially subsidize vaccine distribution in poor countries but also acts as a cover for rich countries to ensure access to any successful vaccine, aims to source and distribute two billion doses of the vaccine. Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2021.

“We need to get at least $ 4 billion there for this Gavi vaccine procurement effort. And I’m hopeful, you know, but we don’t have it yet, and there’s a question that we get it before January 20. I can’t prove it, but I think we’ll make it through at some point, and I think getting the United States to step forward as it has in the past, for things like HIV and malaria, has a proud record there … I think that it will start to release a lot of money, ”he said.

January 20 is when US President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in.

Gates said there were still many things about the infection that were still not well understood, such as why it did not affect African nations as much as the rest of the world, or why the models for predicting the behavior of the virus were not very accurate.

He felt that other vaccines would be approved by summer 2021 and the focus will shift to distribution logistics. But by then, he warned, only rich countries would have had more vaccine coverage than others.

“Therefore, the rich countries will mostly return to normal. But I still think that because the virus will be in the world, we will still be somewhat conservative about the big public events, we will still have to wear some masks … They will not totally return to normal, but sometime in the first half of 2022, I think we can say that we are back to normal. “

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