Report: 22 Billion mRNA Vaccines Needed to Control COVID-19

PIH experts publish report with PrEP4All, scientists calling for mass production of mRNA vaccines

Posted on Jan 11, 2022

Health care worker Lazara Hurtado inoculates an Immokalee resident with a COVID-19 vaccine in Immokalee, Florida in May 2021.
Health care worker Lazara Hurtado inoculates an Immokalee, Fla. resident with a COVID-19 vaccine in May 2021. Photo by Scott McIntyre for Partners In Health.

The world needs 22 billion more mRNA vaccines to bring COVID-19 under control, according to a new report from experts at Partners In Health and PrEP4All and scientists from four universities.

The report, published on January 5, comes as the highly contagious Omicron variant surges worldwide, filling hospital beds and leading to critical staff shortages. The United States reported 1.35 million new COVID-19 infections on January 10—the highest daily total for any country in the world. Globally, COVID-19 cases have topped 300 million.

Even as Omicron surges, billions of people worldwide have yet to receive their first dose of any vaccine—much less, of an mRNA vaccine.

“The scientific evidence is clear,” the report states. “Only by universally deploying the vaccines currently most effective against infection—which for now appear to be mRNA vaccines—will we be able to blunt the virus’ evolution and begin to bring the pandemic under control globally.”

Two mRNA vaccines are among the only widely used vaccines that offer significant protection against Omicron infection, according to existing research. While non-mRNA vaccines will still likely protect individuals from hospitalization, protection from Omicron infection is essential to bringing the pandemic under control globally and preventing the emergence of new variants.

Without mass production of mRNA vaccines, the report warns, global vaccine inequity will only persist through 2022, with people in wealthy nations triple or quadruple vaccinated with the world’s most effective vaccines, while people in low- and middle-income countries are left with limited access to vaccines at all, much less access to mRNA vaccines.

Vaccinating The World

Ramping up vaccine production is no small task—but it is completely achievable, according to the report. And it requires the U.S. government to take action.

The report urges the Biden administration to scale production of mRNA vaccines to 15 billion doses per year—starting in 2022, via a government-owned factory, as a matter of national security.

While U.S. drug-makers Pfizer and Moderna have claimed they will make a combined total of 7 billion mRNA vaccine doses in 2022, neither met their 2021 projections. At this level, the report asserts, the world will face a shortfall of 15 billion doses this year.

And to bring COVID-19 under control, a total of 22 billion doses will be needed—an estimated 10.5 billion doses for those in need of boosters and another 11.5 billion doses for those who have yet to finish their primary vaccination series.

Building this manufacturing capacity would be fast and affordable, the report notes. It would cost the U.S. less than $12 billion in capital expenses and could be accomplished in less than four to six months. (For context, the U.S. recently approved $768 billion for military spending.)

And there is historical precedent. The report points out that the “government owned, contractor operated” approach has been used extensively and successfully by the U.S. government since the Manhattan Project by the Department of Energy “for both cutting edge scientific research and the production of critical, high-technology national security assets.”

“There is every reason to believe this approach…can be used to expeditiously manufacture the number of COVID-19 vaccines the world needs to end the most severe public health threat and biosecurity crisis in a century,” the report states.

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