As world governments struggle with managing their societies in the wake of the CCP coronavirus outbreak, there have been heated debates about developing vaccines to counter the infection. Some suggest that normal safety tests for vaccine development should be circumvented so that there is a chance to bring the outbreak under control at the earliest. However, there has been strong opposition against this since sacrificing proper safety tests can lead to vaccines that might worsen the situation rather than resolve it.
A safe vaccine
Though some companies have revealed that they plan on introducing a COVID-19 vaccine this year, many experts suggest that this might not be feasible since a safe vaccine can take anywhere from 12 months to 18 months to reach the market. “Therapeutic drugs are generally prescribed to sick people as needed; vaccines are generally given to healthy people en masse. It takes a couple of days for scientists administering experimental treatments to hospitalized COVID-19 patients to determine safety and efficacy; for those injecting vaccines into as yet unaffected test subjects, it could be years,” William A. Haseltine, Chair and President of the global health think tank ACCESS Health International, writes in Scientific American.
If safety tests are circumvented, the disease targeted by the vaccine can actually become worse due to unexpected antibody responses. In a recent dengue virus incident in the Philippines, a vaccine apparently triggered such a response. Back in 1967, kids who were vaccinated against the syncytial respiratory virus ended up with an enhanced disease, with some even dying. In 1954, over a million American schoolchildren were given an experimental polio vaccine that was never subjected to the safety standards we follow today.
When children all across the country started losing their ability to breathe or walk, tensions started sprouting up. Thankfully, the situation changed for the better as the polio vaccine worked. However, the 1967 Swine Flu vaccine scandal is a grim reminder of the potentially dangerous result of using a vaccine that has not been properly tested. Almost 450 people who got the vaccine shot came down with a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).
What if history were to repeat with the CCP coronavirus vaccine? In fact, there is a good possibility of such a thing happening. A feline variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus is known to trigger immune responses that make the infection much worse. A COVID-19 vaccine that triggers such responses not just risks worsening the condition of infected people, but can also raise the mortality rate.
Even the infection rate might pick up. Such a development would stress out and break healthcare systems, depress economies even further, and create chaos in society. As such, it might be prudent to prioritize safety when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine development.
A good example of following adequate safety protocols in Moderna, one of the companies developing a potential vaccine against COVID-19. Moderna trials are being sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Barney Graham, deputy director of the organization, has stated that NIH will only move to bigger human studies when animal studies and small-scale human trials confirm the safety of the vaccine.
Moderna’s first human trials have yielded positive results. Eight participants who received low and medium doses of the vaccine ended up with antibody levels that were similar to or greater than those in patients who had recovered from the CCP coronavirus infection. The company’s stock price went up following the result of the trial. Pfizer recently started human trials on its COVID-19 vaccine developed jointly with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech.