We won't have enough COVID-19 vaccine for everybody until 2024, warns world's largest vaccine producer

Scientist Xinhua Yan works in the Moderna lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Feb. 28, 2020.David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
  • There will not be enough doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to reach everyone worldwide until at least 2024, according to the CEO of the world's largest vaccine producer.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are not increasing production quickly enough to vaccinate everyone before 2024, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India’s, told the Financial Times.
  • Poonawalla said that if the coronavirus vaccine requires two doses, the world will need 15 billion doses. "I have not heard of anyone coming even close to that right now," he said.
The boss of the world's biggest vaccine producer has warned that it will take at least four years to make enough vaccines for the entire global population.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, told the Financial Times on Monday that pharmaceutical companies are not increasing production capacity fast enough to vaccinate everyone before 2024.

"It's going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet," Poonawalla said.

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The world will need 15 billion doses if the COVID-19 vaccine requires two jabs, as measles does, he said. "I know the world wants to be optimistic on it … [but] I have not heard of anyone coming even close to that [level] right now," he said.

Poonawalla is in talks with investors about raising $600 million to increase the company's production capacity and meet its target of producing 1 billion doses, he said. "We're doing a ... raise and diluting equity so that we have enough capital to manage the raw materials and equipment we need in the next one or two years to operate at this scale," he said.

The Serum Institute of India is working with five other global pharmaceutical firms, including AstraZeneca and Novavax, to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and may partner with Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute to produce the "Sputnik" vaccine.

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The drug company manufactures 1.5 billion vaccine doses per year for more than 170 countries, most of which are developing nations, to protect against infectious diseases such as influenza and polio.

Poonawalla's statement comes as drug companies across the world scramble for an effective vaccine that will fight against COVID-19, which has killed nearly 950,000 people worldwide.

Last week, AstraZeneca said that its coronavirus vaccine, one of the world's leading candidates, could still be available by the end of this year or early next year, even after the company was forced to pause critical trials last week following an unexpected illness of a participant.

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