COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Resource Center


Healio Interviews

Disclosures: Hotez, Lee and Tedros report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 05, 2022
3 min read

Q&A: Unpatented COVID-19 vaccine could ‘finally vaccinate the world’


Healio Interviews

Disclosures: Hotez, Lee and Tedros report no relevant financial disclosures.
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An unpatented COVID-19 vaccine recently authorized in India and going into production in other countries could soon vaccinate more people globally than all the doses donated by the U.S. and other G7 countries, two of its developers said.

The vaccine already has large orders pending that could positively impact low- and middle-income countries, they said, potentially helping to address what WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, has called a “shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines.”


“Two years into the pandemic, Corbevax is the first COVID-19 vaccine designed specifically for global health,” Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, and Maria Elena Bottazzi, PhD, wrote in an opinion piece in Scientific American. "We now have a new beginning and a head start to finally vaccinate the world.”

The vaccine was developed by the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, where Hotez and Bottazzi are co-directors. They wrote that the vaccine “has several distinct features that make it particularly suitable for use in resource-poor settings: it is safe, effective and can be locally produced at very high quantities.”

It is easy to store, generally inexpensive and uses a well-known technology, requiring less of a learning curve than other vaccines that have been used during the pandemic, they said.

The vaccine “has the potential of being a significant game-changer,” said Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, professor of health policy and management at the City University of New York School of Public Health.

“One of the keys to ending the pandemic is understanding that everyone throughout the world is connected,” Lee told Healio. He said that as long as the virus continues to circulate in an uncontrolled manner somewhere in the world, it remains a threat to everyone else.

“Any location that still has very high virus activity could be a new variant factory,” Lee said. “Therefore, getting as much of the world protected against COVID-19 as possible is critical to ending the pandemic and moving SARS-CoV-2 toward being more of a seasonal virus.”

According to Hotez and Bottazzi, the Indian government has already ordered 300 million doses of the vaccine, and Biological E. Limited — the company that is manufacturing the vaccine — plans to produce at least 100 million doses per month starting in February and will deliver more than 1 billion doses to other countries.

“Drs. Hotez and Bottazzi are well-established leaders in global health, vaccinology and neglected infectious diseases,” Lee said. “They understand the complexities involved in rolling out and implementing vaccine programs around the world.”

We asked Hotez some questions about what differentiates Corbevax from other vaccines and the impact it could have globally.

Healio: You called it “the first COVID vaccine designed specifically for global health.” What are the features that make it suitable for broad use?

Peter J. Hotez

Hotez: It uses a yeast fermentation technology similar to the recombinant protein used to vaccinate against hepatitis B, so — a 40-year track record, excellent safety profile, ease of scale-up manufacturing, simple refrigeration and ease of distribution, widespread acceptance.

Healio: What technology does the vaccine use, and how does it compare with the other available COVID-19 vaccines?

Hotez: It uses an older technology similar to recombinant hepatitis B vaccine, which means it might be especially attractive as a pediatrics vaccine.

Healio: How has it performed in trials?

Hotez: The vaccine was released for emergency use authorization based on superiority to Covishield, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India.

Healio: Why not file for a patent?

Hotez: We wanted as few strings attached as possible to make this widely available to low- and middle-income countries.

Healio: Are you testing the vaccine to see how it protects against omicron?

Hotez: Yes, those studies are pending, but in addition, the vaccine appears to be holding up well vs. other variants of concern, including delta and beta.


Hotez PJ, Bottazi ME. A COVID vaccine for all. Sci Am. Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.