How to Get a Covid-19 Vaccine to Everyone

Developing the vaccine is only the first step

Emily Mullin
OneZero
Published in
8 min readMay 26, 2020

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Photo: beijingstory/Getty Images

A future without the persistent threat of the coronavirus depends on a vaccine. Developing one is absolutely necessary “to return to a semblance of previous normality,” wrote Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in the journal Science on May 11.

With more than 100 vaccines in development and a handful of them already being tested in human volunteers, public health officials are cautiously optimistic that one could be available as early as next year. Biotech company Moderna announced last week that its experimental Covid-19 vaccine produced an immune response in healthy participants in an early stage trial, but it still has a lot to prove.

The success of a vaccine hinges not only on its ability to protect against Covid-19 infection but also on how it’s rolled out to the public. Operation Warp Speed, the ambitious plan to rapidly develop a vaccine unveiled by the Trump administration on May 15, could play a crucial role in curbing the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. It aims to produce hundreds of millions of doses for Americans by January 2021, but it doesn’t detail a plan for getting them to citizens.

A huge number of people will need to receive a vaccine in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus and establish herd immunity — the point at which most of the population is protected against an infectious disease. To achieve herd immunity against Covid-19, experts estimate that around 70% or more of the population may need to be immune. And, since no vaccine is 100% effective, the more people who are vaccinated, the better. Getting a vaccine to all the people who need one will take a massive effort, both in the United States and around the world. There has never been a global immunization campaign on the scale that will be needed to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine.

If and when a vaccine does become available, there likely won’t be enough doses to give to everyone at…

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Emily Mullin
OneZero

Former staff writer at Medium, where I covered biotech, genetics, and Covid-19 for OneZero, Future Human, Elemental, and the Coronavirus Blog.