The new technology behind Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines makes them highly effective, but difficult to produce and distribute

July 1, 2021

The rapid development of multiple effective vaccines less than a year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is an historic achievement. But vaccine development is only the first step towards immunizing the world against SARS-CoV-2, and new vaccine technologies present fresh challenges for vaccine distribution.

The vaccines that offer the strongest protections, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, use mRNA technology to trigger an immune response—the first approved vaccines to employ the new technology. Although quick to develop and produce, their complexity makes scaling up manufacturing and distribution difficult. While some policy actions have been proposed, including waiving intellectual property protections for mRNA vaccines, more comprehensive solutions are needed to roll out effective vaccination campaigns in developing economies.

This graphic shows how the sophistication of mRNA vaccines creates many pressing hurdles policymakers must navigate to protect populations and increase preparedness for future pandemics.

The new technology behind Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines make them highly effective, but difficult to produce and distribute
PIIE/William Melancon

This PIIE Chart was adapted from Monica de Bolle’s blog, “Waiving patent and intellectual property protections is not a panacea for global vaccine distribution.”