How do you make 7.7 billion of anything?

It’s quite clear to rational people that the ultimate solution of the Covid-19 pandemic will only come when there is a safe vaccine. And the research and testing stage looks good at the time of writing. But a vaccine is only going to be really effective if it can leap the following hurdles.

Firstly, everyone must get a dose. Populations with low levels of inoculation are still vulnerable to diseases like measles. They stay endemic.

Secondly, the vaccine must stay high quality all the way from the production point to the patient. How are they going to be affected by temperature, humidity-or just a good old bashing in a truck along a dirt road?

Thirdly, anything you put in the vaccine to preserve it can’t hurt humans. Certain types of person will be hovering, ready to jump on any mistake we have made, so they can take us all back to their beloved Middle Ages.

So-has anyone ever made 7.7 billion of anything to a high standard, and distributed it effectively? What follows is pure fantasy, but some thoughts spring to mind.

Coca-cola and Pepsi have made and distributed colossal numbers of high quality products to their customers across the whole world for many years. A quick glance at the figures suggests 1.9 billion cokes going out every day. We suspect many other food products enjoy these sorts of production runs. It is a colossal achievement of quality and organisation, so yes, it can be done.

Even more encouraging are the results of the IT industry by which we mean phones and tablets. No disrespect to Coke and Pepsi, which we love, but a smartphone is of a different level of complexity to a can of fizzy drink. To send out millions of identical units of this complexity, and in a way that everyone is happy that they will work, is competence indeed. We think the distribution teams at people like Microsoft, Apple and Samsung have a lot to teach the world.

And finally, closer to home……pharmaceuticals. We couldn’t get too much on numbers of pills and doses. But the Fierce Pharma website* has a a flavour of the sheer scale of pharmaceutical mass production and distribution. And basically with drugs, you just can’t make mistakes, there’s too many hungry lawyers for one thing.

With the right finance, production engineers and trainers, this thing can be done. You can put out a high quality medicine in repeated to doses again and again until you reach the billions, and be sure that it works every time. A booster programme will be easy. The thing is-are people going to obstruct it, and how?

#covid-19 #sars-cov#2 #coronavirus #vaccine vaccineproduction #vaccinedistribution

we thank Mrs Margaret Foster of Dorset for the inspiration for this piece

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