The largest vaccine factories on the planet have manufactured 400 million anticovid doses in a matter of months, a historic mark. But still we fall short by an order of magnitude, because it takes not hundreds, but billions to vaccinate the world, and the clock is ticking. On paper it would be possible to get closer to that goal by Christmas this year, but that calculation is based on the assumption that everything is going to function like perfect, oiled machinery, a frankly audacious axiom at the moment, with the vast majority of the doses hoarded by rich countries and a tiring array of international trade restrictions that we boasted so much about
The good news is that vaccine production appears capable of growing exponentially, according to calculations by Airfinity , a London-based consultancy that analyzes the data of the pharmaceutical industry. A linear growth is like 1 2 3 4 5 6…, while an exponential one is like 1 2 4 8 16 32… As in the oriental fable, it is enough to apply this progression on a chessboard so that, starting from a single grain of rice in the first box, you can ruin all the agricultural production of the kingdom before reaching the last. Airfinity predicts that the industry is capable of generating 10 billion doses by the end of this year.
Duke University, North Carolina, raises that prediction to 12 billion. The world population does not reach 8,000 million, so these prospects, even discounting that most vaccines require two doses, would be very close to the global goal. But not even the head of Duke's study, Andrea Taylor, trusts his conclusions, as he acknowledges in 'Nature' . "Supply chains can break down," says Taylor, "and countries can threaten vaccine exports."
The good news is that vaccine production seems capable of growing exponentially
Of course they can, and they are already doing it with balconies facing the street. The wealthy classes and nationalists tend to view covid vaccines as the elixir of youth, a valuable commodity to be had at any cost. Solving a pandemic requires a broader and clearer look, but that is not exactly the strength of Homo sapiens , is it?
Several states of Germany paralyze vaccination with AstraZeneca
What can we do then, given the human raw material with which do we count? A lot. Part of the miracle of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is due to the fact that the big corporations of Big Pharma (the big pharmaceutical industry), which normally have fierce competition, have started to collaborate with each other. Merck is manufacturing the Johnson & Johnson-designed vaccines, both in New Jersey; the British GSK and the Swiss Novartis are manufacturing 350 million doses of their German competitor Curevac. Has Big Pharma suddenly become ethical? Or have you discovered the accounting benefits of collaboration? We will know soon. As the mathematician John Allen Paulos said, secrets are short-lived. People like to talk
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