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  • It's widely accepted that a vaccine is the only way

  • to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • And there are various estimates of the number of vaccine

  • projects currently under way.

  • The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

  • has put this figure at 183, and other estimates

  • put that at over 200.

  • Of all the vaccine projects that are currently in development,

  • can you give a sense of how many of these have actually

  • gone to human trial and you think are viable?

  • What are the chances of success?

  • Yeah, it's really important that there

  • are a lot of vaccine candidates in play.

  • Whether there's 183 or over 200, it's a big number.

  • And that's a very good thing because we don't know

  • which of them is going to work.

  • We don't have any other vaccine for a human virus

  • like this coronavirus.

  • We don't have vaccines for Sars 1 as or Mers or indeed yet Sars

  • 2.

  • So it is important that there's a diverse portfolio

  • to take forward.

  • Of those 200 I would guess at the moment

  • there are about 20 lead candidates.

  • Of those 20 lead candidates I'm aware of probably about 10

  • that are in human trials already -

  • phase 1, phase 2 trials around the world, from China

  • to Europe to the US and elsewhere.

  • Chances of success.

  • It's a hugely important question.

  • And it, of course, depends what you mean by success.

  • But I think if you said each individual one at the moment

  • maybe has a 10 per cent to 15 per cent chance of success,

  • maybe 20 per cent with the more advanced ones, that's

  • a reasonable estimate.

  • Even with the number of vaccine projects in development,

  • is it the case that most of the money that governments

  • are investing are actually just going to a handful of these

  • because they want to back a winner

  • and ensure that their own population has

  • access to a vaccine first?

  • Yeah.

  • Globally, there's investment in all of these 200,

  • whether from national governments,

  • from the ACT accelerator, which has just

  • got started in the last month or so,

  • or indeed from Cepi and other agencies.

  • And it is absolutely crucial there's a broad portfolio

  • because we don't yet know which vaccine is going to work.

  • Yes, the lead candidates have had more funding.

  • But that's a good thing because it allows

  • them to progress at speed.

  • And speed is very important here.

  • But what is important is that we don't just

  • back one vaccine or two vaccines because they may fail.

  • What is important is that as a world

  • we back a whole portfolio of these vaccines,

  • including disruptive ways of making vaccines

  • - RNA or DNA technology or other technologies which

  • we haven't used before in vaccine developments.

  • The danger will be that countries back one or two

  • with all of their resources, and those one or two don't work.

  • And then those countries that do that will

  • be left without access to, hopefully,

  • a potential future vaccine.

  • And what about the production and distribution challenges?

  • So once we hopefully actually get a vaccine.

  • I mean, you have pharmaceutical companies now warning

  • about shortages of glass vials.

  • Can you give a sense of what our production and distribution

  • capability for a vaccine is now compared

  • to what it will need to be to do something that's

  • never been done, to vaccinate the entire global population?

  • Over time we will need to vaccinate very large percent...

  • parts of the population of the world's 7bn people.

  • But to begin with we would have to target those

  • at highest risk.

  • Healthcare workers, the elderly, people from other backgrounds

  • who have suffered disproportionately

  • in this infection.

  • You're absolutely right, though.

  • Having a vaccine is not enough.

  • Having a vaccine that can be offered to 1,000 people

  • is not enough.

  • If we're going to really have the exit strategy

  • through vaccines to this pandemic,

  • we're going to have to be able to vaccinate very large numbers

  • of people around the world.

  • And that means doing the science.

  • It means doing the research and development.

  • But critically, in parallel, rather than in sequence,

  • it means making sure we can turn that vaccine

  • into the billions of doses that we

  • need to provide for the world.

  • And that means thinking about things in a very different way

  • than traditional development.

  • It means thinking in parallel, not in sequence.

  • It means thinking now, if I had 200m doses of a vaccine could

  • I put it into a vial?

  • Have I got enough syringes?

  • Do I have a cold chain that could deliver this

  • all over the world?

  • And instead of doing that one after another

  • we're having to do that at risk, at scale,

  • and as a global manufacturing base in ways

  • that, frankly, we've never had to do before.

  • And that is the thinking.

  • It's the thinking behind what Cepi

  • is doing, what Gavi is doing, what the WHO is leading,

  • and what individual countries are all contributing to.

  • And in terms of that equitable access to any vaccine, I mean,

  • can you talk a little bit about the issue

  • of vaccine nationalism?

  • Is an internal agreement the only way

  • to ensure equitable access to any vaccine?

  • And to those priority groups that you mentioned -

  • health workers, for example - even in the poorest countries,

  • to ensure that they have access to it.

  • How realistic do you think that is?

  • It's got to be realistic.

  • I mean, it may sound idealism and it may sound naive,

  • but effectively that's what we have to do.

  • And there are two reasons for doing it.

  • One, because it's the right thing to do.

  • Healthcare workers have suffered disproportionately

  • through this, as indeed have the elderly, as indeed

  • in many countries in Europe and North

  • America have people from BAME backgrounds

  • have suffered more than others.

  • And we have to focus our vaccine strategies on those at highest

  • risk.

  • Vaccine nationalism.

  • In other words, I'll make a vaccine

  • for my country or my region, and I'll deal with my country

  • first, and I'll leave the rest of the world for later.

  • That is not enlightened self-interest.

  • Not only is it the wrong ethical or moral thing to do,

  • it's also not sensible.

  • It's not smart science.

  • The best way of addressing this pandemic

  • is to see it as a global issue.

  • It is not an issue for America or Britain

  • or China or South Africa.

  • It's an issue for all of us.

  • And until we deal with this as a global issue we're not

  • any of us are going to be safe.

  • So we have to make the case that just looking after yourselves

  • and leaving the rest of the world for later

  • isn't going to be on the solvers to get out of this pandemic.

  • Well, and on that point, as you say, this is a global issue.

  • And global leadership arguably has

  • been something that's been lacking,

  • at least from among political leaders in this crisis.

  • What is your response to how the US has handled this pandemic?

  • And if China and the US, if powerful countries like China

  • and the US aren't engaging or working constructively

  • on the global stage together within this response, how

  • damaging is that for efforts to not only find

  • a treatment and vaccines, but also

  • to ensure equitable access to those?

  • At a scientific level, I mean, we

  • have many partnerships and collaborations with scientists

  • both in the United States and in China.

  • And those are continuing.

  • I appreciate the tensions that there

  • are politically and the rhetoric that is there politically.

  • But at a scientific level, whether it

  • be in academics in China, academics in the United States,

  • or in industry in either country,

  • I have to say that we are very much engaged

  • with both of those.

  • And that's how we have to go forward.

  • I'm afraid on this one the rhetoric from the politics

  • is not something that I can get into.

  • It's not something I can influence.

  • What I can influence, and colleagues in Cepi, Gavi, WHO,

  • and elsewhere, the European Union, et cetera,

  • what we can influence is the partnerships at the scientific

  • and the research and development and the manufacturing levels

  • to make sure that we have vaccines available independent

  • of your ability to pay and independent of which country

  • you are in.

  • Yes, I would love countries to come together

  • to address a global crisis and come together

  • in political partnership as well.

  • And I hope out of this we have a new dawn which people will

  • appreciate that whether it's pandemics like Covid,

  • or indeed it's climate change or drug

  • resistance or the issues of mental health

  • that we all struggle with, that this

  • will demonstrate to the world there

  • is no future in narrow nationalism.

  • There is no future in a polarised world.

  • These are challenges which will face us all.

  • And unless we work out ways to work together -

  • yes, scientifically, but also as societies and politically

  • - we won't be able to address them.

  • Because nationalism is not the future and is not

  • the answer to those great challenges.

  • So at a scientific level actually

  • we're making great progress.

  • We talk to American scientists, Chinese scientists,

  • not every day but almost every week.

  • And we're finding great traction there

  • and huge support from both of them in order to move forward.

  • And let's talk about the funding behind all of this.

  • I mean, you supported initial calls for an $8bn response fund

  • to respond to this crisis which was met.

  • Can you give a sense of where that money has

  • been spent so far and how much more will be required?

  • Yeah.

  • That was the initial request.

  • And as you rightly say, and I pay tribute here

  • to the European Commission and to other governments that

  • have played a critical role in bringing that together

  • from the G20 to many countries around the world that

  • have contributed.

  • Yes, we were successful in raising that initial sum,

  • in fact, a little bit past that.

  • And that has allowed the work to go on since that pledging

  • conference on the 4th of May.

  • So the science, the research and development,

  • the progress that's been made in health sciences

  • and therapeutics.

  • We mustn't forget the therapeutics angle either.

  • That progress is continuing, and indeed there

  • is tremendous progress both on vaccines, therapeutics,

  • and diagnostics, and in support for health systems.

  • But that was only ever a starting point.

  • If you take that a new drug or a new vaccine...

  • let's say it costs you a billion dollars

  • to get to the first starting point of having a vaccine.

  • And we need more than one vaccine,

  • and we need therapeutics, and we need support diagnostics.

  • And critically, we need to support the public health

  • response, protection of healthcare workers,

  • personal protective equipment, and the rest of it.

  • We're going to need significantly more than that.

  • What we're working with, with WHO, with Gavi, with Cepi,

  • with the Therapeutics Accelerator, the Gates

  • Foundation, Wellcome, many governments around the world,

  • is to work out, now having had that initial injection to allow

  • that first work to get started, what more

  • is now going to be needed in order to enhance public health

  • support around the world, to enhance

  • the critical work of WHO and Gavi

  • and other Cepis and others?

  • What's really going to be needed to solve this crisis?

  • They sound like eye-watering amounts of money.

  • $8bn seemed a lot of money when we called for it in February.

  • The new request will inevitably be bigger than that

  • because the challenges are now greater.

  • But if you look at what the world is losing