During August, we looked at the UPS freezer farms that were preparing to cold store a new vaccine.
Today, there is much more.
According to CNBC, 47 vaccines are in clinical trials. The following companies have made the most progress:
With Pfizer announcing better than expected test results for its COVID-19 vaccine, private and public distribution networks have been mobilizing. The vaccine’s storage requirements are daunting. Requiring minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or so), it will be kept in special freezers. Then, for shipping, it needs dry ice-packed boxes that contain 1,000 to 5,000 doses. And finally, when it arrives, the thawed vaccine can spoil in five days.
Through its $1.95 billion pre-order, the U.S. government will receive the vaccine and then hand it over to the states. Decentralized, the system requires that each state create a communication campaign, purchase equipment, and train medical professionals. Through distribution plans that were due at the CDC by November 2, states expressed different priorities. While medical professionals will be among the first to get the vaccine, some named the elderly, another its meatpacking workers, and a third state included its prison population. For the Pfizer vaccine, they had to figure out how to get people to take two doses that are 28 days apart.
Densely populated areas have the best set up for vaccine distribution because they can match large shipments with large quantities of people. The big worry seems to be areas with smaller isolated rural populations where shipments could spoil before enough people receive them.
Internationally, affluent nations are first. Germany subsidized the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine while others, like the U.S., placed a $1.95 billion pre-order (that will be paid on delivery). It will be much tougher for poorer nations that cannot afford an intricate cold-storage infrastructure. India said it would prefer to wait for a more traditional vaccine.
Below, you can see the pre-orders targeted Pfizer and Moderna. Both are developing an mRNA vaccine:
Our Bottom Line: Scarcity
When you slice away all of its complexities, economics is really just about scarcity. Defined as limited quantities, scarcity makes production and distribution decisions a necessity. After all, if the quantities of all goods and services are limited, then we have to decide what to produce and who gets what. Please note, we don’t equate scarcity and shortages. We just mean that everyone cannot have everything of everything. So we need to make decisions about production and distribution.
Below you can see a Covid-19 vaccine production and distribution overview:
So where are we? Covid-19 vaccine distribution is really the last chapter of a classic economic story about solving the problem of scarcity.
My sources and more: Today, Bloomberg and CNBC are good starting points for the big picture while ProPublica had the state perspective. If you wanted to learn more about mRNA as did I, this 3 1/3 minute YouTube could be handy: