Coronavirus: How will the world vaccinate seven billion?

(BBC) – Teams across the world are working to develop a vaccine that will be effective against Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called it “the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”.

But away from the high-tech science of finding a winning formula, what about the logistics of rolling out a vaccine to seven billion people worldwide?

In the UK, the heart of that effort is at the Harwell Science Campus, on an ex-RAF airbase in Oxfordshire.

It is going to be the UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), plans for which have been brought forward by Covid-19.

“We’ve really compressed the timeline into almost half. So whereas we were expecting to have it ready at the end of 2022, we’re now hoping to have it online in 2021,” explains Matthew Duchars, chief executive of VMIC.

‘Like baking a cake’

Mr Duchars is yet to take a summer holiday because he knows that this place could end up producing the Oxford University vaccine. He’s in constant touch with the team at the Jenner Institute, just down the road in Oxford.

The UK's Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC)Image copyrightVMIC
He says it’s a heavy responsibility.

“It’s critically important, not just for the country but globally, to be able to produce these types of vaccines quickly and effectively,” he says.

“To use an analogy – it’s like baking a cake at home. You can spend hours preparing the perfect cake and now you’ve got to go out and bake 70 million of them and they all have to be perfect, so it’s quite a challenge.”

That’s putting it mildly.

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