Race for a Vaccine
October 2, 2020
Covid-19 shook the world for all of 2020 and continues to do so until this very day. Nobody could have predicted how normal life would have been upended due to the novel virus. Now, in a time when face masks and standing six feet apart is the norm, countries around the world are racing to find a cure. Could they be going too fast? Vaccines typically take years to develop, not a few short months. Rushing the timeline for a vaccine could potentially expose individuals to undue harm if the vaccine is not thoroughly tested. If the vaccine is rushed out, will it do more harm than good?
The pressures of delivering a palatable vaccine to the global population is no easy task. Preclinical trials evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine on potentially thousands of candidates. “If you are making a decision about the vaccine, you’d better be sure you have very good evidence that it is both safe and effective,” said Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The United States is currently planning an initial distribution of 100 million vaccines. If negative symptoms only affected 1% of the population, it would be putting 100,000 more individuals’ lives at risk. With many more loved ones’ lives on the line, is a rushed vaccine worth it in the end?
The novel Covid-19 virus has devastated the world in various ways over the past 8 months. One million people around the globe have died from the virus; 200,000 of them here in the United States. With numbers like that, it’s reasonable to want to get a vaccine or therapeutic process developed as quickly as possible. The FDA states, “prioritizing development does not mean that FDA’s responsibility for review and standards for approval have shifted.” In other words, it still undergoes a rigorous approval process to be approved for mass market use. While the standards needed for approval are still in place, corners are still being cut to push a vaccine out. The typical vaccine can take years to be developed. Laboratories around the world hope to get one out in a matter of 18-24 months; far shorter than average development time.
Vaccines of the past and present have typically been very safe. The benefits of getting them far outweigh the risk to an individual’s health if they have not. The Trump administration’s Covid-19 task for released surveys over the past few months that show, “US adults likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available had dropped from 72% in May to 51% in September.” Due to how fast the process is going, public trust of a vaccine developed in such a short amount of time is dropping. Not only is the public health at risk, but the trustworthiness of vaccines are too. With a drastic increase in so-called “Anti-Vax” groups, which often propagate false information about vaccines, growing rapidly in the past decade. Everyone wants to return to the normal way of life; no mask, cramming into stores, and not being afraid of coughing in public is something everyone wants. In due time, a vaccine that is safe and effective will be developed.