The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed over 780,000 lives globally as of mid-August 2020. And over the past six months, businesses have shut, travel has been stalled and economies are taking a nosedive. Tackling the virus has been a mammoth exercise of human resource management – from surveillance, containment efforts, collation, and dissemination of data/risk, clinical management, logistics/supply chain management, and psychosocial care. The magic bullet apart from treating infected patients is the hope of a vaccine – that can help re-open businesses, and enable a return back from the “new normal”.
The global race for a coronavirus vaccine is an on-going effort. According to the Guardian, more than 170 candidate vaccines are being tracked by the World Health Organization, with 138 in the pre-clinical stage, 25 in phase I which tests the vaccines in small-scale safety trials, 15 in phase 2 – where vaccines are tested in expanded safety trials and 7 in phase 3 – where vaccines are tested in large-scale efficacy trials. The timeline that scientists hope to develop a new vaccine is within 12 to 18 months.
The race for a vaccine is also an exercise of talent management – from bringing together the best scientists and resources, ensuring coordination of research, and planning for large scale clinical trials – all of which call for exemplary leadership and planning.
Leading the pack of vaccines is Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine that’s now moved to Phase 2 of the trials. And while Russian health authorities have approved a coronavirus vaccine, it is yet to complete clinical trials. In India, Covaxin by Bharat Biotech showed positive results in the phase 1 trials. Many countries are already securing vaccine deals to ensure that their population has access to them, should the trials complete successfully.
Despite the effort and resources that are allocated for the vaccine, it's unclear whether the world would have a vaccine. The WHO has repeatedly stated that there may not be a silver bullet. WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "We all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there's no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be”.
Fast-tracking efforts by compromising on quality checks will rupture the fight against COVID-19. The vaccine race has also helped to shine a light on public investment in health care, the role of pharma and non-pharma funders, and the critical role of public-private partnerships and local communities in moving to a COVID-19 free world.