Vaccines against coronaviruses may need to start before they’ve even been fully tested to see if they can protect people from infection, said Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI ).
CEPI is a non-profit organization formed to accelerate the development of vaccines.
Manufacturing could begin even though some of the Covid-19 vaccines are in the first phase of human clinical trials, which are designed to demonstrate only safety, Hatchett said on Saturday.
The plan could cut time without cutting corners or sacrificing efficiency or security, Hatchett said in a webcast of the National Academy of Sciences’ Covid-19 update.
Large-scale manufacturing usually doesn’t start until after a vaccine has passed all three phases of clinical trials, a process that usually takes years. CEPI first published the outline of the plan to speed up the process in the New England Journal of Medicine in March.
It may be more expensive to do so, said Hatchett.
“If we are to deliver the vaccine on a large scale within … our stated goals of 12 to 18 months from the start of the program, we will have to be comfortable with these risks,” he said. He estimated that tens of billions of dollars will be spent over the next few years on the delivery of vaccines.
“If we shorten the pandemic by a month, we save hundreds of billions of dollars. And that is the calculation that elected leaders must make,” said Hatchett.
CEPI has funded several research projects on Covid-19 vaccines, including the three vaccines currently being tested in humans. Two of the vaccines are in phase one clinical trials – the Moderna and Inovio vaccines – and only the Chinese vaccine CanSino Bio moved into 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 finance an intensification of its manufacturing process, according to a company statement earlier this month.