Vaccination, before Covid-19

published on Sunday, May 8, 2022 at 7:00 AM

The annual production, pre-epidemic, was 5 billion doses of vaccine … To which were added at least 11 billion doses of Covid vaccine produced in 2021

They’ve never been talked about as much as they’ve been since the Covid-19 pandemic: the vaccine industry.

For what, for whom?

It exists now vaccines for more than 20 life-threatening diseases and vaccination allows dAvoid 2 to 3 million deaths a yearaccording to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Until Covid-19, vaccination most often concerned specific categories: children (polio …) but also the elderly or immunocompromised people, such as the flu vaccine.

The annual production, pre-epidemic, was 5 billion doses … To which were added at least 11 billion doses of Covid vaccine produced in 2021.

If a serum was quickly found for coronavirus, it is still not the case for many infectious diseases, such as HIV. In addition, the vaccine inequality, highlighted by the pandemic, concerns other pathogenic viruses or bacteria. According to Inserm, 140,000 measles-related deaths were recorded worldwide in 2018, mostly among children in low-income countries.

Various technologies

Since the discovery of the first smallpox vaccine by British physician Edward Jenner in the 18th century, the range of serums has expanded considerably. The most traditional are using vaccines inactivated virus technology : the virus is killed but retains its ability to induce the creation of antibodies (flu vaccine). She was paying attention to the virus technology is close: the infectious agent is weakened via various chemical processes (MMR vaccine: measles, mumps, rubella, etc.).

More recent technologies such as subunit vaccinesor bis viral vector vaccines : the latter use an adenovirus as a “vector” to present to the immune system a fragment of the virus against which the body is intended to produce antibodies (Ebola vaccine).

Last arrived, messenger RNA vaccinesnever marketed before 2020. With this serum, the cells of the human body will be made to make, from injected messenger RNA fragments, a piece of Sars-Cov2 virus against which they will train to defend themselves.

New actors

Traditionally, the world of vaccines was restricted to a few large laboratories because the investment required to develop a new serum is very significant. “It was the hunt for a few happy few. The messenger RNA redistributes the cards,” said Judge Loïc Plantevin, a health expert at Bain and Company.

Four mastodons pre-pandemic accounted for 90% of the market value: Americanii Pfizer and Merck, British GSK and French Sanofi. But none but Pfizer – only through a partnership with German biotech BioNTech – have succeeded in winning the race against Covid.

The Covid-19 pandemic has revolutionized this closed sector with the emergence of biotechs such as BioNTech and the American Modernaat the origin of the first RNA vaccines.

Not to mention the new producing regions. In the face of unequal access to doses, the WHO has launched a program to implement RNA vaccine sites in six African countries in 2024.

Other initiatives are being implemented, for example, a collaboration between Drew Weissman, the developer of RNA message technology, and Thailand to gain access to vaccines and low-income populations.

Loïc Plantevin appreciates the important actions for health sovereignty, but only for the RNA message technique, in order to use “traditional technologies that remain complicated to deploy and relocate”.

What are the clues for the future?

With Covid, billions of dollars have irrigated the infectious disease sector, which is often less burdensome for large laboratories than therapeutic areas such as oncology.

Since then, initiatives have multiplied. In particular, Moderna wants to advance the development of vaccines targeting dengue, Ebola or malaria. Sanofi, which has experienced a setback for Covid, has also launched massive investments in RNA vaccines.

Will messenger RNA be the answer to all infectious diseases? Will there be an HIV vaccine soon? “RNA technology still needs time, with improvements” to bring, warns Loïc Plantevin. Especially for conservation, the weak point of this technology.

However, “the pandemic has accelerated and reminded of the need to continue innovation in vaccines,” he added.

The Nobel Prize in Medicine and Virologist Charles Rice was awarded to AFP at the end of 2020: lIn any case, the Covid crisis has “really changed the way we do science, to make it a common effort rather than working in different, isolated laboratories, as we did years ago.”

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