Science, Economics And Vaccines


Dr Stanley Plotkin develop vaccines for some of the world's deadliest modern viruses. He's very familiar with the cost and the process of producing vaccines, and he says the process tends to be slow and ferry expensive developing vaccine is likely to cause something on the order of five hundred, million dollars five hundred, million dollars status is today's indicator five, hundred million dollars to get a vaccine Stanley, says. For drug companies and universities and labs that monumental cost is often one of the biggest obstacles to creating vaccine after all at the end of the process, you don't know if you ever will actually debt vaccine some viruses like HIV still don't have successful vaccines even after decades of trying and billions of dollars invested if covid nineteen vaccine can't be found or if it takes decades the social. Economic and cultural impacts would be devastating. So the White House has done something pretty unheard of it's created a plan called operation warp speed to try to speed up the vaccine process. The White House says it's already invested more than twelve billion dollars in the plan and how the plan works. The White House is basically created contracts with drug companies like Pfizer Novak's Moderna Therapeutics and AstraZeneca. Few others and those contracts promise these companies billions of dollars if they can get a vaccine ready to go and have a hundred million doses at the ready by the first part of next year with so much money being funneled toward the problem I'm wondering if that will do you think speed up the process of getting a vaccine or does it just take the time it takes or? It definitely speeds things up. Stanley says with a strong cash incentive like this and so much support companies can out a bunch of different tactics in their search for a vaccine. He says, there are more than a hundred different approaches that scientists know of, and they can try a bunch of them labs all over the world flooded with resources racing for vaccine that should help speed up the arrival of the vaccine at least that is the hope but that is as yet. a hope. Nothing nothing is certain is certain. if everything goes well. I think having a vaccine by the end of the year is not impossible, but it's based on everything going. Well, Stanley says even with all the money in the world getting a vaccine ready for the public quickly is really hard. The Rubella vaccine that he developed was a relatively quick process in terms of vaccines. It took him about two years to discover it to develop the vaccine itself, and then five years to tested and scale up the production of IT and just get to the market, and here's why for one thing it's a messy process. You have a biological problem It's a complicated process and there isn't any single wave. Doing that also, he says there are parts of the process that you cannot speed up no matter how much money you have Stanley says trials for vaccines for instance, typically take longer than trials for regular drugs because vaccines will be used on much larger swath of the population. So you have to test the vaccine on all different kinds of people, different ages, ethnicities, people with different underlying health conditions, and that typically means trials involving tens of thousands of people. Also, you have to give the vaccine time to work time to assess side effects. Many vaccines fail in this trial phase, and there is a danger in going too fast of course the. is to avoid making mistakes. While you're speeding up mistakes and research or in manufacturing the vaccine or in not taking enough time to test these things can have. Consequences he says in the nineteen fifties, some batches of the polio vaccine created the contained an active virus the samples at past the safety tests yet thousands of people contracted polio from the vaccine dozens of people were paralyzed as a result Stanley says rushing vaccine is a balancing act between good science and good economics in you you yourself are working on a vaccine is that correct? Well, I know lawyer you know I'm I'm eighty eight years old I? No longer have a laboratory but I'm giving advice left and right so. I'm working in the a sense of giving advice. What kind of advice are you giving? What questions do people have at this stage which? Are Important what have you and responses one should be trying to get. What dosage? Interval between doses I mean the things that one learns with any vaccine. Are you taking dozens of calls like a week. I see why you have very limited time. I. Should let you go but I can't thank you enough for taking some of your precious time to talk with me. By by by conversation is over I, mean I would be hurt but like the man has lives to save, right? Oh. Yeah Oh. Yeah. Impressive Dude. Also fun fact Cardiff. He learned to fly a plane when he was seventy four and you don't do that kind of thing by spending all your time talking to journalists. The man is flying planes and saving the world. So he gets overpass

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