Vaccine Makers Face Biggest Medical Manufacturing Feat in History
June 29, 2020
Employee Philipp Hoffmann, of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, demonstrates research workflow on a vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany, March 12, 2020. (REUTERS/Andreas Gebert)
From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.
Much of the world is watching and waiting for researchers to develop a vaccine for the disease COVID-19. But making enough of the vaccine to end the coronavirus health crisis will be the biggest medical manufacturing feat in history.
That work has started.
Researchers are currently setting up testing, involving 10,000 to 30,000 volunteers for every candidate vaccine. These scientists say they hope to get an answer on whether a vaccine works by as early as this October.
However, health officials face a hard reality. The developer of an effective vaccine may not be able to make and deliver billions of doses all at once.
Never done before
The Reuters news agency spoke with over 10 vaccine developers and suppliers.
The U.S. government has partnered with Johnson & Johnson on a $1 billion investment to speed up development and production of its vaccine, even before it is proven to work. Johnson & Johnson signed a deal with two other businesses, Emergent Biosolutions and Catalent, to manufacture large amounts in the United States. Catalent will also do some fill-and-finish work.
“Never in history has so much vaccine been developed at the same time - so that capacity doesn’t exist,” said Paul Stoffels. He is the chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson. He said he believes that filling capacity is the main limiting factor.
Seth Berkley is head of GAVI, the vaccines alliance. He told Reuters that experts estimate having “one to two billion doses of vaccine in the first year, spread out over the world population.” He added that it is unlikely to go straight from having zero vaccines to having enough doses for everyone.
GAVI is a project of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its aim is to increase the availability of vaccines -- and immunization rates -- in developing countries.
Colonel Nelson Michael is the director of the U.S. Army’s Center for Infectious Disease Research. He is working on a government project aimed at delivering a COVID-19 vaccine to the world by January 2021. Michael says that companies usually have years to develop vaccines. “Now,” he said, “they have weeks.”
The main problem: logistics
But one of the biggest issues is an untested supply chain: How to get the vaccine to people around the world? Any problem in the supply chain could delay or even wreck the whole process. And there could be other problems.
In other words, logistics – the term for organizing a complex operation such as this -- is a major concern.
“This is the biggest logistical challenge the world has ever faced,” said Toby Peters. He is an engineering and technology expert with Britain’s Birmingham University.
Peters told Reuters, “We could be looking at vaccinating 60% of the (world’s) population.”
Companies and governments must improve machines to be able to fill that demand. Currently there are not enough machines that can fill and package the vaccines for delivery.
Another problem: Vaccines need extreme cold
Once ready for shipping, many vaccines need to be kept very cold. Some of the more promising vaccines are made from genetic material -- such as messenger RNA, or mRNA vaccines.
“People who work with mRNA store it at minus 80 degrees centigrade,” said Paul Offit, a co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine. He noted that such conditions are not available at most doctor’s offices. He is a doctor and directs the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Peters of Birmingham University has been gathering information from poorer countries in Africa and Asia. He said that breaks in the temperature-controlled supply chain are already happening.
Companies such as Moderna are working to make candidate vaccines that remain stable at higher temperatures. Colleen Hussey is a spokesperson for Moderna. She told Reuters that for a short amount of time, these vaccines can be stored in refrigeration equipment found in doctors’ offices or medical centers.
She added, “We will know more in the next 2-3 months.”
And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report. I’m Anna Matteo.
The Reuters news agency reported this story. Anna Matteo adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Quiz - Vaccine Makers Face Biggest Medical Manufacturing Feat in History
FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2007 file photo, Emily Strayer, left, and Martie Maguire, right, adjust Natalie Maines' hair as the Dixie Chicks perform at the new Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The group have dropped the word dixie from their name and is now going by The Chicks. (AP)
The Dixie Chicks changed its name last week, over concerns that it is offensive.
“We want to meet this moment” read a statement on the country music group’s website.
Now known as The Chicks, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines and Emily Strayer are the best-selling female band in the United States. That information comes the Recording Industry Association of America. They have won the Recording Academy’s top award – a Grammy -- 13 times.
Dixie is a traditional name for the southern part of the country, especially the rebel states during the Civil War. They fought to defend slavery and states’ rights.
The band said it recognized that the new name was already in use by a band in New Zealand.
“A sincere and heartfelt thank you goes out to ‘The Chicks’ of NZ” the newly named Chicks said in a statement. “We are honored to co-exist together in the world with these exceptionally talented sisters,” the group added.
Next month, the Chicks are to release Gaslighter, their first new record album in 14 years. They just released a music video of their new song, March March. It includes video and images from the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
The name change follows a decision by another group, Lady Antebellum, to change their name earlier this month. They are now known as Lady A. The word antebellum means existing before a war and is often used to describe things before the Civil War.
The former Dixie Chicks formed in Texas in 1989. They have sold more than 33 million albums. Some radio stations stopped playing their music because of an incident in 2003 when lead singer Natalie Maines criticized then-President George W. Bush for the Iraq War. The band was performing overseas at the time. They answered the criticism with the song Not Ready to Make Nice and had a big win at the 2007 Grammys, winning three of the top awards.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Caty Weaver wrote this report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
After the excesses of Christmas, many people decide to give up booze for the month of January in the hope that it will do them some good. But what are the real benefits of going dry and is just one month long enough?
Rob and Catherine discuss abstaining and sobriety and explain these words and several other drink-related vocabulary in just six minutes.
This week's question:
According to data from the World Health Organisation in 2015, which country consumed the most alcohol per person? Was it…
c) The Czech Republic
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
resolution a promise to yourself to do or not do something
to shed to lose
sobriety the state of not being drunk
crutch crutch here is something you depend on for support
abstain not do something that is enjoyable but bad for you
bed in to become normal and start working properly
Note: This is not a word for word transcript
Rob Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English– the show that brings you an interesting topic, authentic listening practice and vocabulary to help you improve your language skills. I'm Rob…
Catherine And I'm Catherine. In this programme we'll be discussing quitting drinking and staying dry.
Rob Right, so when you say ‘quitting’, you mean ‘giving up’ – and when you say ‘drinking’, you're particularly referring to ‘the activity of drinking alcohol’.
Catherine Exactly Rob.
Rob But, what about staying dry? It's nothing to do with the weather?
Catherine No that's true. The adjective ‘dry’ here means ‘no alcohol’. And I, Rob, am currently having a dry January.
Rob Ah yes, your New Year's resolution is to give up alcohol for one month. Any reason?
Catherine Yes. I'm doing it in order to improve my health and save some money. And a resolution, by the way, is a promise to yourself to do something or not to do something.
Rob Well they seem like good reasons. And for now, we must keep up our resolution to always start the programme with a question, so are you ready for it, Catherine?
Catherine I am, crack on, Rob!
Rob According to data from the World Health Organisation in 2015, which country consumed the most alcohol per person? Was it…
c) The Czech Republic
Catherine Well they're sound quite likely, but I did visit Prague once and I had a lovely time, so I'm going to say c) the Czech Republic.
Rob OK, well as always, we'll find out the answer later on. But let's continue our discussion about drinking – or informally known as boozing – and trying to give it up. We all know that too much drinking can be bad for us and that's why you Catherine, have decided to quit – but only for a month.
Catherine Yes just a month but it's a start and I might continue into February. But I'm seeing the benefits already. I've managed to shed some weight – most of which I actually put on over Christmas!
Rob I can see. So to shed here simply means 'lose'. And I bet your sobriety is helping you sleep better. Sobriety, by the way, means ‘the state of not being drunk’.
Catherine It is actually. And I'm not alone: A study of 857 British adults by Dr Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex found that after going for a month without alcohol, 62% of the people in the study said they had better sleep. So Rob, does that tempt you to become teetotal and stop drinking?
Rob Not me Catherine. I need a drink to help me relax and be more sociable – you know how shy I am!
Catherine Yes of course Rob! Well, maybe you should listen to Catherine Gray. She's the author of a book called The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, which she wrote after she discovered the negative effects of going to too many work-related parties where she was just drinking too much. Here she is speaking on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour programme…
Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober I had a lot of social anxiety and when I quit I had to deal with that. I think I used drinking as a crutch, a confidence crutch - it eased the way to go to big glittering parties and stuff like that and when I quit I had to learn real confidence in a way.
Catherine So Catherine worked in the magazine business which involved going to lots of boozy parties. Drinking, she says, helped herdeal with a nervous and worried feeling that she had when she met new people - she called it social anxiety.
Rob Yes, and she used drinking as a crutch. A crutch here is something you depend on for support – and sometimes you rely on it too much.
Catherine Yes and eventually she decided to abstain from drinking – in other words stop doing something that is enjoyable but bad for you – and she feels much better for it. So come on Rob, haven't you got the willpower to just quit drinking for just 30 days?
Rob Well according to Catherine Gray, that wouldn't be long enough…
Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober Experts say that it takes 66 days for a new habit to bed in, so I would always recommend trying it for 90 days. 30 days is the hard bit before you get to the rewards. Because after 66 days it starts getting a lot easier and you start feeling better in yourself.
Catherine Right, so it takes 66 days for doing a regular activity - a habit - to bed in. And ‘bed in’ means to ‘become normal and start working properly’.
Rob Now, earlier I asked you, according to data from the World Health Organisation in 2015, which country consumed the most alcohol per person? Was it…
c) The Czech Republic
Catherine And I said the Czech Republic. Was I right?
Rob You were Catherine. Spot on, well done. Apparently, 14.1 litres of pure alcohol is consumed per person each year.
Catherine Well like I said, they do make good beer in the Czech Republic – but people, be careful, only drink it in moderation. Now Rob, shall we take a look at the vocabulary we've mentioned today?
Rob Indeed. The first word we had was resolution – that's a promise to yourself to do or not do something. 'Catherine's New Year's resolution was to give up drinking alcohol for a whole month.'
Catherine Yes, and I'm still doing it Rob – the plan is to shed a few kilos and get fit. So for example, 'Rob shed lots of weight when he went on a cake-free diet!'
Rob Really? I'd never give up cake Catherine, but I could be tempted to give up booze as I know sobriety is good for my health – that's the noun word to mean ‘the state of not being drunk’.
Catherine Now our next word abstained. That means ‘not do something that is enjoyable but bad for you’. 'Rob needs to abstain from eating cakes if he wants to wear his skinny jeans.'
Rob Are you dropping a hint there, Catherine? Now, our final word is actually two words – bed in. It means ‘to become normal and start working properly’. 'It took a while for the new computer system to bed in but now it's working perfectly.'
Catherine That's brilliant because now we can go online and find more BBC Learning English programmes at bbclearningenglish.com. That's all for today's 6 Minute English. We hope you enjoyed it. Bye for now.
Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said he is not worried about the Covid-19 crisis pushing up the number of bad debts, while stock analysts are predicting that asset management companies will benefit from banks’ anticipated rise in bad debts.
The minister said he was not concerned about the potential of rising bad debts from Covid-19 crisis leading to financial instability because the central bank and commercial banks had experience in containing this problem.
“Though we are facing a crisis, our financial institutions are strong and once there is an economic turnaround, things will return to normal again,” Uttama said after meeting with central bank governor and bankers on Monday (June 29).
“We are not complacent, and the government has been providing financial support to businesses. We are also discussing extra measures to help businesses expand in the post-Covid era.”
Predee Daochai, Kasikornbank president, said the Covid-19 crisis has generated uncertainty in the banking business, because banks still cannot predict the volume of bad debts because the Covid-19 pandemic has not ended yet.
Kasikornbank has been boosting its reserves against risk asset and making capital plans for the next one to three years it is required to do so by the central bank. Kasikornbank is also conducting a stress test as it has done in the past, and so far, it has not seen any problems, he said.
Average BIS capital adequacy ratio of Thai banks is 18.7 per cent compared to the minimum requirement of 8.5 per cent.
Paying Srivanich, Krungthai Bank’s president, said his bank has also conducted a stress test in preparation to cope with the impact of the crisis. He said his bank has been closely monitoring the situation to see what happens when the government financial aid comes to a halt at the end of the year. “Small and mid-sized businesses may be relatively strong now, but they may weaken once the financial aid comes to an end,” he noted, adding that the government may need to provide more funds to support SMEs.
Separately, analysts said that asset management companies are ready to swoop in once banks’ bad debts begin surging.
The share prices of three major asset-management companies have risen as investors expect them to benefit from banks’ bad debts, which are expected to soar as a result of Covid-19 fallout.
The shares of Bangkok Commercial Asset Management (BAM) rose 33.70 per cent on June 26 from last year, while JMT Network Services’ share price rose 13 per cent, while that of Chayo Group rose 11.11 per cent.
BAM’s shares rose 60 per cent from the lowest point in March, while JMT and Chayo’s rose 100 per cent from March’s lowest level.
Based on the first-quarter performance, JMT made profits worth Bt206.81 million, up 43 per cent, Chayo earned a profit of Bt36.99 million up 34.6 per cent, while BAM’s profit was Bt698.82 per cent, down 78.5 per cent largely because it had received a large chunk of debt payment from a client the year before.
Looking ahead for asset management companies, Korakot Sawetkruttamat, deputy managing director at Kasikorn Securities, believes banks’ non-performing loans (NPLs) will rise considerably in the fourth quarter of this year. Hence, he said, that would be the best time for asset management firms to buy up bad debts.
BAM reckons it will spend Bt10 billion to Bt12 billion on bad debts, while JMT is eyeing purchases of Bt4.4 billion and Bt4.5 billion and Chayo Bt1 billion.
The three companies are expected to beat their targets or buy bad debts with a combined worth of Bt17.5 billion, taking into account the fact that businesses with combined debts worth Bt6.8 trillion have been seeking government financial aid.
Investing in these companies will be relatively safe if investors want to commit long-term and hope to gain from their profits later.
Rising bad debts combined with contraction in the economy will benefit asset companies, unless the situation worsens. However, their short-term performance in the next few quarters is not bright as the government has implemented measures that allow debtors to temporarily suspend debt repayment.
Of the three firms, BAM is the most attractive as it has a portfolio of bad debts with collaterals. Chayo has also acquired a large number of bad debts backed by collaterals, but it has low liquidity. Meanwhile, JMT takes on bad debts without collaterals, though the company has a chance to grow fast and pay high dividends.
Analysts at Capital Nomura Securities are also predicting that asset companies will benefit from bad debts becoming cheaper during the Covid-19 crisis and get good returns once the economy recovers.
BAM has an advantage as it is in the basket of FTSE SET Mid Cap Index as well as the MSCI Index, and can grab the interest of foreign investors, Nomura analysts said.
The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) will resume services of 40 long-distance and tourism trains from tomorrow (July 1), in line with the government’s easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures, SRT governor Nirut Maneephan said today.
These are the trains:
1. 34 long-distance trains nationwide:
> 10 trains on the Northern route
> 14 trains on the Northeastern route
> 10 trains on the Southern route
2. Six tourism trains:
> Train 909/910, Bangkok-Nam Tok-Bangkok
> Train 911/912, Bangkok-Sea Pine Garden-Bangkok
> Train 997/998, Bangkok-Ban Plu Ta Luang-Bangkok
The SRT also announced that four special trains services would be suspended from tomorrow: train 9071 (Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani), train 9075 (Bangkok-Nong Khai), train 9072 (Ubon Ratchathani-Bangkok) and train 9076 (Nong Khai-Bangkok).
“Passengers must wear face masks at all times and maintain social distancing while using trains,” Nirut said. “The SRT will sell tickets at 50 per cent of each train’s capacity and will not allow the selling of food on board. Passengers on long-distance trains can bring their own food.
“Passengers are also encouraged to check in and out via the Thai Chana application by scanning a QR code sticker that will be placed in all carriages to help trace Covid-19,” he added.
EECO eyes ‘earth, wind, water, fire’ elements to stimulate East
The Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EECO) has proposed that Bt36.938 billion be earmarked from the government’s Bt1.9-trillion scheme for stimulating the economy in EEC provinces. agencies.
Of the Bt36.938 billion, Bt26.202 billion be spent on tourism and tourism-boosting promotions, while Bt7.8 billion will be used to upgrade the abilities of EEC workers in the automobile and related
EECO has handed the proposal over to the National Economic and Social Development Council for consideration.
EECO is collaborating with EEC provinces and related agencies to work on key projects, such as drawing tourists and improving tourism sites, easing unemployment, improving infrastructure to name a few.
More than Bt26 billion has been earmarked for tourism projects alone because the authority expects them to draw 12 million tourists, and a great deal of revenue if each of these tourists spends Bt3,000 per person.
Investing in tourism will also stimulate small businesses as well as help improve the EEC provinces’ agricultural and industrial abilities.
The projects will be run under an “earth, water, wind and fire” concept, in which “earth” will stand for agricultural and cultural tourism, transportation and logistics, “water” for the sea, beaches, water parks and floating markets, “wind” for balloon events, drone tournaments, concerts, shows and e-sport challenges, while “fire” will be related to events that will feature fire or light.
EECO is also planning to collaborate with Krungthai Bank to complete the government’s online platforms like “Eat, Shop, Spend” or “ThaiChana”.
As for addressing the unemployment issue, the EECO expects to spend Bt7.8 billion to help boost the skills of some 300,000 workers in the automobile and related industries so their knowledge is up to par with 4.0 technology.
Meanwhile, just over Bt2 billion has been earmarked for infrastructure development, while Bt651 billion for other projects like building a new dock and a fish market.