Nov 16, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus sparks competition in the vaccine market

Illustration of a hand in a glove holding a glowing syringe

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The coronavirus has sparked a new and highly competitive vaccine-development race, but competition in the sector had previously been declining for years, according to a report from the liberal Open Markets Institute, which was shared with Axios.

By the numbers: The number of drug companies producing vaccines shrunk considerably in the '80s and '90s, according to the report, leaving just eight companies producing recommended childhood vaccines in 1996.

  • That number dwindled to just 4 manufacturers by 2002, when several childhood vaccines went into shortage.

The big picture: When the U.S. faced a shortage of flu vaccines in 2004, a big cash infusion from the federal government helped boost production. The billions of taxpayer dollars on offer now through Operation Warp Speed have once again helped jump-start vaccine work.

  • But it has lagged when federal money hasn't been there to prop it up.
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