It might be necessary to start manufacturing coronavirus vaccines even before they have been fully tested to see if they can protect people from infection, said Richard Hatchett, the CEO of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
CEPI is a non-profit put together organization formed to speed the development of vaccines.
Manufacturing could begin even while some of the Covid-19 vaccines are in the first phase of human clinical testing, which are designed to demonstrate only safety, Hatchett said Saturday.
This plan could cut time without cutting corners or sacrificing efficacy or safety, Hatchett said on a National Academy of Sciences Covid-19 Update webcast.
Large-scale manufacturing doesn’t usually start until after a vaccine has passed all three phases of clinical trials, a process that usually takes years. CEPI first published outlines of the plan to accelerate the process in The New England Journal of Medicine in March.
It may be more expensive to do things this way, Hatchett said.
"If we want to deliver vaccine at scale within … our stipulated targets of 12 to 18 months from the initiation of the program, we’re going to have to be comfortable with those risks," he said. He estimated that tens of billions of dollars will be spent over the next several years for vaccine delivery.
"If we shorten the pandemic by a month, we’re saving hundreds of billions of dollars. And that’s the calculus the elected leaders need to make," Hatchett said.
CEPI has funded several Covid-19 vaccine research projects, including all three of the vaccines currently being tested in people. Two of the vaccines are in phase one clinical trials – vaccines from Moderna and Inovio – and only China’s CanSino Bio vaccine advanced to the second phase of clinical trials earlier this month.
Moderna already intends to use funding from the US federal government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to help fund a scale-up of its manufacturing process, according to a statement from the company earlier this month.