The covid vaccination campaign is accelerating, but challenges remain numerous, in Switzerland and around the world, from factories to injection centers, depending on the weather and shortages of raw materials needed by manufacturers. Five highlights marked the week.
These words are springing up everywhere. This week, we learn from Chaz Calitri, an executive at Pfizer, that they are constantly changing locations, depending on the plant and the time. Where does it get stuck these days? The press mentions lipid nanoparticles, essential for mRNA doses and rare. It is a question of syringes with “low dead space” allowing to exploit more doses per vial. They are lacking, also in Switzerland. An executive from BioNTech reports that synthetic molecules are lacking. There is a shortage of giant, sterile bags, according to the Financial Times. Capable of holding 2000 liters, they are used in bioreactors where vaccine ingredients are mixed. The industry says it is sweating to meet demand.
■ Snow and delays
In Texas, snow deprives millions of homes of electricity, heat and vaccines. In Florida and Pennsylvania, it causes delays. “It’s a problem,” according to infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. Weather is slowing deliveries from FedEx to Memphis and UPS to Louisville, two distribution centers for the Southeast, reports the Washington post, causing a cascade of delays or cancellations in Alabama, Indiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Chicago, Missouri. In Greece too, sites have closed due to snow.
■ It starts in Africa
The campaign begins in Africa. Doses have arrived, from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea via Senegal, Chad and South Africa. The giant of the Emirates DP World has joined forces with the Emirates company and the Dubai airport to distribute vaccines. “We use all of our infrastructures and our geographic roots”, indicated his boss Ahmed bin Sulayem. DP World ports and terminals would carry 10% of world trade. The Ethiopian air carrier and Unicef also play a key role.
■ The weight of India
There is the Serum Institute of India (SII), but also Bharat Biotech, Biological E, Zydus Cadila, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals or Dr Reddy’s Lab. India will be the second largest producer of covid vaccines after the United States in 2021, according to Deloitte. The cabinet estimates the number of doses produced there at 3.5 billion. “The lack of regulatory harmonization at the global level has disappointed me”, indicates the head of the SII, Adar Poonawalla, in Guardian. “How difficult was it for the American, British and European authorities to come together at the WHO and agree that if a vaccine was approved in half a dozen countries, it would be approved across the globe?”
■ Sputnik V deploys
Fifteen manufacturers in ten countries (including Brazil, India, Iran, China, Serbia and South Korea) will produce enough to vaccinate 700 million people with Sputnik V, reports the Financial Times. In Russia, six factories will manufacture the vaccine promised to become a flagship symbol of Russian exports, such as the Kalashnikov, notes the Anglo-Saxon title. But doubts remain about the ability of producers to meet demand from fifty countries. The Kremlin has invested heavily in the creation of the vaccine, but less in its distribution.