Fool.com's Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina interviewed Richard Horton on Motley Fool Live on Oct. 9. Horton runs the British medical journal The Lancet and has been at the forefront of publishing data about the coronavirus pandemic this year. He also recently published a book called The COVID-19 Catastrophe.
Here, Horton explains what investors should know about manufacturing, distribution, and the "cold chain" when it comes to mRNA vaccine candidates like those being developed by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX), as well as by Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA).
Cardina: Looking beyond getting the first approvals for a vaccine, the next challenges become manufacturing the vaccine, distributing the vaccine. We've touched on getting people to take the vaccine, but a lot of noise is being made about certain types of vaccines and keeping them cold, which would pose a problem for your neighborhood pharmacy doling these out. They don't necessarily have the right refrigeration, questions about distribution. I'm curious if you have any insights there?
Horton: Yeah. This has been a source of great concern, and organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have invested heavily in trying to understand technologies that can eliminate the need for, as you described, the cold chain so that vaccines can be given more widely, especially in countries where the cold chain is hard to deliver. So in continents such as Sub-Saharan Africa, or even remote parts of Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. This is a challenge. I think when it comes to the distribution side, I do have another concern, which is, at the moment, it's the richest countries with the biggest political clout that are able to buy out vaccine, supplies as and when they want to. That includes my country, that includes your country. Although that's good for us, we've got to think, what's the fairest way? This is a global emergency, and we need a global response. So the question I hope that we could ask one another is, not what's just best for me, but what's best for the world. So how do we make sure that the vaccine is distributed fairly to those people most in need? Because truth to tell, Corinne, you and I are not actually the first people who need the vaccine because I suspect you're not a frontline worker. It's the people who are going to be exposed. It's going to be those people who are on the frontlines of healthcare, food stores, transportation and so on. They should get it first. People who are over 70 years old, they should get it first. People who have chronic illnesses, they should get it first. In my country, machination minority ethnic communities have been particularly at risk, they should get it first. Maybe the same in America with African-American communities. We need to figure out how we distribute the vaccine to those most in need. That's not a scientific challenge so much; that's going to be up to our politicians to do the right thing.