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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.

Go deeper

13 hours ago - Sports

The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Packed stadiums and a more normal fan experience could return by late 2021, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said yesterday.

Why it matters: If Fauci's prediction comes true, it could save countless programs from going extinct next year.

19 hours ago - Health

Fauci: U.S. could have herd immunity by the end of summer 2021

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci at the White House in November. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the U.S. could achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 by the end of next summer or fall if there's a "good uptake" of Americans vaccinating against the virus.

Driving the news: Fauci said during an online video conversation with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) he expects the general population to have access to the vaccines U.S regulators are now considering by April.

11 hours ago - World

Putin says Russia will begin large-scale COVID-19 vaccination next week

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he has directed officials to begin large-scale vaccination against COVID-19 as early as next week, according to state media.

Why it matters: Russia, which has the fourth-largest coronavirus caseload in the world with more than 2.3 million infections, would be the first country to begin mass vaccination. Experts have criticized the lack of scientific transparency around the vaccine and the haste with which the Kremlin approved it.