Vaccine Manufacturing Ramps Up in Face of Horrifying Milestone

As of this week, COVID-19 has taken half a million lives in the U.S. The death rate is decreasing; around 2,000 die a day from COVID-19 while it peaked at more than 3,000 a day in January. New people are still being infected every day, but the new infection rates are down. We must all do our part to keep those numbers down.

That decline is really fragile and could change at any time,” said Prof. Ali Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The vaccine rollout is ongoing, but we are forecasted to see 600,000 deaths by June.   

If we stay careful, we’re on a good trajectory to get back to a regular future. “I’m quite hopeful that we are starting our way down the path to normalcy,” said epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “[Daily deaths] are starting to tick down, and we’re now several months into vaccinating.”

As well as all of us doing our parts to follow safety guidelines, vaccine makers are stepping up and ramping up production. According to both Pfizer and Moderna, they are on track to produce and deliver 300 million doses each by the end of June. That’s 600 million doses in total, which is enough to vaccinate 300 million people. Johnson & Johnson is hoping to be approved by the FDA to use their vaccine soon. If that goes through, they claim could vaccinate 20 million people by the end of March and 100 by the end of the summer. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one injection.

The companies faced shortages of raw materials and bottlenecks in production when they began. However, working quickly, the companies say those problems have been sorted out. Moreover, other companies have stepped up. Sanofi and Novartis are both rivals of Pfizer. Yet, they are both lending the company their production lines to help speed up production. Sanofi is actually working on a vaccine of their own but has faced a large setback and isn’t ready for approval. International other companies are doing the same thing — helping competitors who have been approved get their drug to market first. Typically, these companies with competing drugs would be bitter rivals but, those problems have been set aside.

This is a time when the pharma companies are saying, ‘We’ll go back to fighting when this is over. We’ll take you to the cleaners and maybe drive you to bankruptcy, but right now we need to be working together,’” said James Bruno, who consults for drug companies.

Right now, 19.8 million Americans have received two doses of a vaccine. Sixty-five million doses have been injected in total. We have about 332 million people in the U.S. So, many more injections are needed before we can get back to “business as usual.”  

The massive winter storms last week slowed down vaccinations and the transportation of vaccines. Here in San Diego, where our weather was mild, our large vaccination site had to close when the shipment of vaccines was delayed because of the weather. There are a lot of moving parts. The best thing you can do is follow health guidelines and check your state’s vaccine info to know when you are eligible for a shot and how to make an appointment.

Banner image: Daniel Schludi via Unsplash
February 26, 2021
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