When the development of the COVID-19 vaccine first began back in May 2020, the government promised that 300 million doses would be available by January 2021. However, by October, this estimation had slipped to 100 million, and by the end of December, not even 40 million had been distributed. Why do these timelines keep shifting?
The complexity of COVID-19 vaccine production
Producing and distributing a vaccine is a complex task with many variables, including product development, manufacturing, packaging, and legal review. If one of them doesn’t go as planned, the whole process can be delayed. Since the vaccine has gone into production in an emergency, faster than any in history, it’s only to be expected that one or more of these factors will experience setbacks. Under normal circumstances, these delays wouldn’t matter too much and would be understood and taken in stride. However, as we all know, these are not normal circumstances.
Strict production standards
At every stage of production, pharmaceutical companies need to check their product to ensure that each unit is consistent with the original formulation approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This process can be a slow one, especially when problems emerge. Then there are other raw materials to consider, such as glass, pipette tips, dry ice for storage, and others. If the supply chain in any one of these should break down, the entire production process grinds to a halt. Pfizer recently had to delay its distribution plans due to slow-moving raw material supply chains.
Despite the delays, the Health department and CDC remain optimistic that the majority of Americans will have access to shots by the second quarter of 2021. However, because of the many factors at play, most forecasts are nothing but estimates, meaning that the public can never really be sure about the figures. One thing is for sure: the COVID-19 vaccine is here and everyone will get their shots soon. We have already been patient for over a year, without a vaccine, and now there is little left to do but wait our turn and allow the CDC’s planned vaccination program to play out.
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