Potential vaccines developed in record time, thanks to colossal investments, but not only: the United States has taken the lead well in advance, underlines Loïc Chabanier, health specialist for the consulting and audit firm EY, in an interview with AFP.
What made such rapid progress on Covid-19 vaccines?
The classic time for a vaccine, from discovery to availability, is ten years or more. What is expensive and what is long is the “development” part, all the clinical trials. [sur l’homme]. Knowing that a phase two clinical trial can last a few months and that a phase 3 (the last one before approval) can last months, but often several years.
But there are different types of vaccines. And here, it is a vaccine against a viral disease, the virus of which was not entirely unknown since we already had knowledge of other epidemics of coronavirus. In addition, the research dimension on this type of vaccine is better controlled and it is necessary to underline the massive effort of several tens of billions of euros of injected investments, the most spectacular being in the United States. In France, we certainly have less billions on the table, but the country has re-mobilized research teams, academic or industrial promoters to redirect their efforts to the virus. If we put everything end to end, between the new investments, and those redirected to the Covid, that also represents considerable sums.
Why is the United States ahead, two of its laboratories having already announced efficacy results?
It is no surprise that the strength of the investment had an extremely strong accelerating effect. But there is also the fact of anticipating a lot of things. Behind the clinical phases, we need to be able to anticipate production and supply, which has been done in the United States with investments throughout the entire supply value chain, whether in raw materials or in bottles. ..
It is also necessary to take into account the fact that in certain countries of Europe or in the United States, a certain number of protocols are less restrictive and can accelerate the things, which made it possible to make headway.
A lot of things have been done in France too. When we look at the average time taken to start a clinical trial, it was almost divided by ten between the submission of a file to the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products and the inclusion of a first patient in the study. Despite everything, a certain number of rules are binding in certain countries such as France and can slow down the process.
Can these future COVID-19 vaccines pay off big for labs, knowing that some have announced they will sell them at cost?
It is too early to assess the strategies of the laboratories. The manufacturer who markets a vaccine first has an undeniable advantage in terms of brand image. On the other hand, other manufacturers will also develop vaccines which will have less restrictive aspects in terms of conservation. Behind this concerns the entire population, there are modes of administration which are not the same, modes of conservation which may be easier, all these elements come into play. Even someone who sells to cost price, it remains a model which can be interesting. In Europe, it will be a real differentiator, in terms of image. Particularly in exchanges with public authorities.