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Vaccine experts speak out on COVID-19 vaccines and how to prepare

By Laura Subramanian, Anthony McDonnell, Robert Van Exan, Julie Rosenberg, Prashant Yadav, and Rebecca Weintraub

As the world awaits the results of COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, we need to invest now in systems to ensure equitable global vaccine delivery. Sixteen vaccine experts from the vaccine industry, academic and regulatory agencies interviewed by the Center for Global Development and Ariadne Labs advised on how to do this. While being asked to inform quantitative models on COVID-19 vaccine success rates and timelines, they shared recommendations on COVID-19 vaccine communications, safety monitoring, manufacturing, and distribution, as well as lessons learned for pandemic vaccine development processes. Their overall message: the time to prepare is now.

Ariadne Labs (Brigham Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Center for Global Development logos
Ariadne Labs (Brigham Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and Center for Global Development logos

1. Invest in communications, safety monitoring and public accountability to promote trust and acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines

Tailored public health communications on COVID-19 vaccine portfolio and timelines

Robust vaccine safety monitoring systems

Public accountability for COVID-19 vaccine safety

2. Plan now for unprecedented scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing and distribution

Manufacture vaccines and related supplies at scale

Address rate-limiting steps in vaccine distribution

3. Develop a playbook now for a systematic global approach to pandemic vaccine R&D

Mechanisms for rapid knowledge sharing and evidence-based selection of vaccine platforms

Strategic process for prioritizing which vaccine candidates get clinical trials

Standardized clinical trial protocols for pandemic vaccines

Registry of global manufacturing capacity

The message from the vaccine experts is clear: we must plan now to ensure effective rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, or we risk failing to contain this pandemic. We have a narrow window to heed this advice by upgrading and verifying our vaccine delivery systems. We can also leverage the lessons learned from COVID-19 vaccine development by standardizing these processes for second generation COVID-19 vaccines and future pandemics.

This work is funded in part by generous support from the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.

Laura Subramanian is a Senior Specialist in Monitoring and Evaluation at Ariadne Labs.

Anthony McDonnell is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Global Development.

Robert Van Exan is President of Immunization Policy and Knowledge Translation.

Julie Rosenberg is the Assistant Director of the Better Evidence program at Ariadne Labs.

Prashant Yadav is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development and a Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD.

Rebecca Weintraub is the Director of Better Evidence at Ariadne Labs, Faculty in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an Associate Physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Illustration by Olga_Z / iStock

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