Coronavirus vaccine: why can't it happen right away?
With nearly 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 coronavirus infections every day, scientists around the world are under tremendous pressure to find treatment and deal with a pandemic. Money doesn't seem to be a problem – new and new grants are announced every day. Last Friday alone, the European Commission funded 137 scientific teams that are developing coronavirus vaccine and medicines.
US President Donald Trump announced in early March to directors of pharmaceutical companies and health authorities that he wanted the Corona vaccination to be completed before the November elections.
Drug manufacturers are working to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. Behind the scenes, however, scientists and medical experts are concerned that a hastily developed vaccine against coronavirus could make the infection worse than prevent it in some patients.
How does the vaccination work?
The reason is the principle of action of vaccines. Scientists are trying to mimic the pathogen and then expose the human immune system to its effects with a small dose given as an injection. Ideally, the immune system develops a strong memory for the pathogen so that the body attacks it on the next contact before the infection can spread. The trick is to do this without the patient becoming seriously ill through the vaccination. There are several ways to make vaccines, but they all need to achieve this delicate balance.
Researchers typically need months of animal testing to check the likelihood that a vaccine will worsen or improve the patient's condition. Given the urgency of stopping the spread of the new corona virus, some drug companies are moving straight to small-scale human testing without waiting for animal testing to end, Reuters writes.
“I know how important it is to shorten deadlines significantly in general, but after all the information I have, I don't think this is the way to go,” says Dr. Peter Hotes, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in the U.S. before Reuters.
Hotes was involved in the development of the SARS vaccine, the coronavirus that triggered the 2003 epidemic. He then found that some vaccinated animals developed a more serious illness than non-vaccinated animals exposed to the virus. To reduce this risk, it must first be tested on animals before the vaccine can be administered to humans.
At least for now, global experts believe that accelerated testing is a risk worth taking.
Vaccine already tested on humans
At a special meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) in mid-February to coordinate the global response of the new coronavirus, researchers and drug manufacturers around the world agreed that the threat was so great that vaccine developers had to switch to human testing quickly before the Animal testing has been completed.
The results of the meeting were not officially released by the WHO. They do not represent the official position of the main United Nations health organization.
Supervision of pharmaceutical manufacturers and medical research is in the hands of national regulators. You are responsible for marketing the medication. The most powerful of these, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has signaled that it will not interfere with the accelerated vaccine test plans.
“When we respond to a public health emergency like a new coronavirus, we want to be flexible and review all data on a particular vaccine,” said FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kakomo in a statement. The agency did not comment specifically on animal testing, Reuters said.
Coronavirus vaccine developers must conduct routine animal testing to ensure that the vaccine itself is non-toxic and helps the immune system respond to the virus.
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