Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday September 10, 2020
Speed of coronavirus vaccine race ‘crazy’ and unsafe, scientists warn
Leading scientists across the world say rushing the development of a coronavirus vaccine to bring it to the public before the end of this year is unrealistic, unsafe, and even “crazy”.
Despite reports from across the world suggesting a vaccine could be ready in weeks – particularly from the United States, where “Operation Warp Speed” reportedly has officials on standby to distribute the vaccine by October, ahead of the presidential election – experts are increasingly concerned that the rhetoric is in no way matched by the data.
None of the leading vaccine candidates have yet completed clinical trials, the regulatory bodies who licence vaccines are already struggling to cope with coronavirus demands, and questions over manufacture and distribution haven’t been considered, experts say.
Professor Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told The Telegraph: “This timeline is neither realistic, nor is it sensible to put this kind of pressure on the analysis of important trials. It is highly politicised, and I am not a fan of this approach.”
She said that it was essential for all new vaccines to go through comprehensive clinical trials.
In normal times, a vaccine takes up to ten years to develop, including several years of testing. Under the current plans outlined by politicians in the UK, Russia, and the United States, this has been crunched to less than 12 months.
“It is extremely unwise to proceed with licensing any vaccine without a proven track record for safety and efficacy, in any country,” Professor Kampmann said.
“If they are found to be useless or even dangerous, you might jeopardise the entire vaccine programme. The more this moves from science into politics, the more it becomes a little crazy.”
The World Health Organization said on Friday it does not expect to see a vaccine until mid-2021, and it is working with experts to define the criteria for declaring a vaccine successful. On the same day, US newspapers also carried reports of a planned joint statement from some of the big pharmaceutical companies, pledging that they will not release a coronavirus vaccine until its usefulness and safety are proven.
At the same time, the head of ‘Operation Warp Speed’ in the US, Dr Moncef Slaoui, hit back at accusations of political influence, telling Science Magazine he would resign if there was “undue interference”. (The Telegraph)