The Indicator from Planet Money - Science, Economics And Vaccines

Everyone wants to develop a coronavirus vaccine. But vaccine development usually takes years. The White House is betting money can speed things up.

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Content Keywords: Stanley Plotkin White House NPR
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hello, who is this? Dr. Plotkin Stacey Vanek Smith from NPR to recover from that one. But you know, they might remember that this man. Dr. Stanley black skin. I might actually be alive on this earth right now because of him you've developed some of the vaccines that like most of the world has.

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Do you mind just listing off a few of them worked on rabies shot of my goal of Irish Anthrax few others? Probably best known for his work on the rubella vaccine. Rubella. Also called German Measles was spreading like wildfire back in the 60s. It was estimated that one in 15 people in the US have it could cause really terrible and deadly complications especially in fetuses in the vaccine did Stan Lee help develop is now given to people all over the world. It's the are in the MMR booster shot and he's also worked on the vaccine for polio. You've dealt with some of the deadliest viruses in you know, modern history. Is there anything different about covid-19? Is it sort of a typical virus? No, it is not a a typical virus covid-19 is tricky because it is a respiratory virus, but it doesn't act like a respiratory virus all the time doesn't necessarily just affect the

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It also creates a bunch of different responses in different people people reported heart problems. Memory problems skin conditions digestive issues covid-19 is slippery and that makes creating a vaccine for it even harder and it's also unique in the destruction. It is caused. He says the destruction of people's lives and their jobs this microscopic virus has brought the global economy to its knees Stanley says that makes it different from most of the other viruses that he has worked on. We're trying to solve a worldwide disaster at his little time as possible White House has been pulling out all the stops trying to speed up the process and get a vaccine to the public by the end of the year and to do that. The Trump Administration is trying to change the economics of vaccines hoping that money will make the process move faster.

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This is the indicator from Planet Money. I'm Cardiff Garcia and I'm Stacey Vanek Smith today in the show. The Business of vaccines developed a vaccine usually takes years. Sometimes decades damn show can money be things up?

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Dr. Stanley Plotkin is about vaccines for some of the world's deadliest modern viruses. He's very familiar with the cost in the process of producing vaccines. And he says the process tends to be slow and very expensive developing a vaccine is likely to cause something on the order of five hundred million dollars 500 million dollars that is today's indicator 500 million dollars to get a vaccine then leases for drug companies and universities in Labs that Monumental cost is often one of the biggest obstacles to creating a vaccine at the end of the process. You don't know if you ever will actually get a vaccine some viruses like HIV still don't have successful vaccine even after Decades of trying and billions of dollars invested covid-19. Xing can't be found or if it takes decades the social economic and cultural impacts would be devastating.

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Took the White House is done something pretty unheard of its created a plan called operation warp speed to try to speed up the vaccine process. Do I know says it's already invested more than 12 billion dollars in the plan and cures of the plan works. The White House is basically created contract with drug companies like Pfizer novavax moderna Therapeutics and AstraZeneca among the few others and those contract promised these companies billions of dollars if they can get a vaccine ready to go and have a hundred million doses at the ready by the first part of next year with so much money being funneled tour the problem. I'm wondering if that will do you think speed up the process of getting a vaccine or does it just take the time it takes or sandwiches with a strong cash incentive like this and so much support companies can try out a bunch of different tactics in their search for a vaccine. He says there are more than a hundred different approaches that scientists know of and they can try

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A bunch of them all over the world flooded with resources Racing for a vaccine that should help speed up the arrival of the vaccine. At least. That is the Hope is as yet a hope. Nothing. Nothing is certain if everything goes well, I think having a vaccine by the end of the year is not impossible but it is based on everything going well, even with all the money in the world getting a vaccine ready for the public quickly is really hard the rubella vaccine that she developed was a relatively quick process in terms of vaccines. It took about two years to discover it to develop the vaccine itself and then five years to tested and scale-up the production of it and just get it to the market and here's why one thing it's a messy process.

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It's a complicated process and it was in any single way of doing that. Also, he says are parts of the process that you cannot speed up. No matter how much money you have Stanley says trials for vaccines for instance typically take longer than trials for regular drugs because vaccines will be used on much larger swathes of the population. So you have to test the vaccine on all different kinds of people different ages ethnicities people with different underlying health conditions and that typically means trials involving tens of thousands of people also have to give the vaccine time to work time to assess side effects many vaccines fail in this trial phase and there's a danger in going too fast while you're at your speeding up research or manufacturing the vaccine or in not taking enough time to test these things can have major consequences. He says in the 1950s.

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Some batches of the polio vaccine were created the contained an active virus the samples of passed the safety test yet thousands of people contracted polio from the vaccine dozens of people were paralyzed as a result. Stanley says rushing a vaccine is a balancing act between good science and good economics working on a vaccine. Is that correct? I'm 88 years old. I no longer have a laboratory, but I'm giving advice left and right. So I'm working in the in the sense of giving advice. What kind of advice are you giving what questions do people have at the stage?

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What dosage would interval between doses? I mean the things that one learns with any vaccine?

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Are you taking like dozens of calls like a week? I see why you have very limited time. I should let you go. But I can't thank you enough for taking some of your precious time to talk with me. Bye. Bye. Bye conversation is over. I mean, I would be hurt but like the man has lives to save Right Guard if he learn to fly a plane when he was 74 and you don't do that kind of thing by spending all your time talking to journalists. The man is flying planes and saving the world. So absolutely

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This episode of the indicator was produced by Darien would fact-checked by Brittany Cronin. The indicator is edited by Patty Hirsch and is a production of NPR.
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