Speed Reads

Solving COVID

How a glass shortage could slow coronavirus vaccine development and distribution

There's more than science standing between a coronavirus vaccine and the American people.

The U.S. Heath and Human Services Department has moved to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development, albeit separately from the rest of the world's efforts. But its eventual distribution will be hampered by an unprepared supply chain that has never had to deal with crisis of this scale before, Politico reports.

The U.S. is embarking on "Project Warp Speed" to produce a vaccine, rejecting a collaboration with the World Health Organization that could've let the U.S. access research from around the world. Taking shortcuts to speed up development is problematic in its own right, with the U.S. government giving developers permission to skip certain animal and human trials and perhaps eventually allowing the vaccine's emergency use before it's fully reviewed, Politico notes.

After development comes the process of packaging and distributing the vaccine — and a whole host of other problems. Vaccines are packaged inside specialized glass vials, and the industry that produces that medical glass has been facing a sand shortage since before COVID-19 hit, Politico reports. Dr. Rick Bright, who was leading coronavirus vaccine development until his alleged ouster, says in his whistleblower complaint he warned of a shortage of borosilicate tubing that's needed to make vials, but his concerns were ignored.

The industries making stoppers and needles needed to contain vaccines are also ripe for shortages. Read more about the vaccine's looming supply chain problem at Politico.