Inside the race to bring coronavirus vaccines to the world

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2020). "Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2" [Micrograph]. Retrieved from Flickr.

Note from the editor

Early last spring, Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., estimated development of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine would take between 12 to 18 months. His prediction was viewed by many as highly optimistic.

The past year and a half, however, has borne out Fauci's forecast in incredible fashion. By last November, two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were proven to be safe and strongly effective. Several others from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax followed. Globally, shots developed by companies in China and Russia were cleared for use after international studies showed protection against COVID-19, too.

The world is now in what would have an unthinkable position at the start of the pandemic, with some countries having several viable vaccines to choose from for their citizens.

But it's not enough. Lower- and middle-income countries are still struggling to obtain enough doses to immunize their citizens, as hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases continue to be reported each day. The spread of coronavirus variants, while not yet mutated enough to render available shots ineffective, has made rapid vaccination even more important.

Pressure has accordingly ratcheted higher for drugmakers and developed country governments to take more aggressive action to share vaccine supply — calls that have intensified as companies disclose sales estimates in the tens of billions of dollars.

Critical research still needs to be done, including evaluating currently available vaccines in young children, determining when booster shots are needed and monitoring for side effects that may emerge as different populations receive doses.

Read on for a snapshot of where things stand:

Ned Pagliarulo Lead Editor

FDA grants full approval to Pfizer, BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine

• Published Aug. 23, 2021 • Updated Aug. 23, 2021

Departing FDA officials, WHO leaders argue against broad rollout of COVID-19 booster shots

• Published Sept. 13, 2021

Top FDA vaccine officials to leave agency as decision on COVID-19 boosters looms

• Published Aug. 31, 2021 • Updated Aug. 31, 2021

FDA, CDC advisers back third COVID-19 vaccine dose for immunocompromised people

• Published Aug. 13, 2021

Pharma erupts as Biden administration backs waiver of vaccine patent rights

• Published May 6, 2021

Chinese drugmaker Clover says vaccine prevents COVID-19 in large trial

• Published Sept. 22, 2021

Variant spread blamed as CureVac vaccine disappoints

• Published June 17, 2021 • Updated June 17, 2021

Novavax says vaccine 90% effective against COVID-19 in large trial

• Published June 14, 2021 • Updated June 14, 2021

Sanofi, GSK say revamped coronavirus vaccine is strong enough for final test

• Published May 17, 2021 • Updated May 17, 2021

The ongoing developments in the COVID-19 vaccine

With the widespread distribution of vaccines in the U.S, mandates nationwide are beginning to lift. However, with less than half of Americans having been vaccinated, there might still be a long way to go to achieve 'herd immunity.'

included in this trendline
  • Novavax says vaccine 90% effective against COVID-19 in large trial
  • Pfizer forecasts $26B in coronavirus vaccine revenue this year
  • FDA authorizes Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for younger teens
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.