Was the COVID-19 vaccine developed too quickly and should you trust it?
By Dr Paul Evans, Chief Executive Officer | 07/23/2021 |
Finding a COVID-19 vaccine took a gargantuan effort, and remarkably in less than a year, one was found.
Countries who have employed vaccine rollout programmes early are seeing coronavirus-related death and infection rates plummet. They are easing their way out of their respective lockdowns, giving credence to the vaccines, and the clinical trials that came before its’ effectiveness.
However, there is still hesitancy in some quarters about the vaccines produced and people are concerned that:
- the vaccine was developed too quickly
- we don’t know the long-term side effects of taking the vaccine
- the vaccines aren’t effective.
In this article I’ll discuss how it was thanks to the people, or in my opinion, heroes, who took part in clinical trials that enabled us to find a set of vaccines so quickly and why you should trust the science behind them.
The vaccine was developed too quickly
For possibly the first time ever, finding a solution to a healthcare problem, a COVID vaccine, became everyone’s focus. That meant the same amount of work that is involved in the development of any new drug or vaccine was done, but at a much faster pace because it was everyone’s priority. That has never happened before.
Think of it like taking an Uber somewhere and instead of being stuck in traffic and waiting at red lights, the roads are clear and traffic lights are green all the way. The same amount of work is involved in getting to your destination, but it takes you less time to get there.
Contracts that usually take months to agree between trial site companies like Velocity and pharma companies like Moderna or Pfizer were signed in a day. The Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) process that was used to get an early approval reduced some of the necessary bureaucracy involved in drug approvals but didn’t reduce the evidence that the FDA needed to declare the vaccine safe and efficacious.
Thanks to increased media scrutiny and awareness people were lining up around the block to volunteer for the studies. Never in my 30 year-career did I think I would see my industry on CNN. As a result, it took only 4 weeks to recruit 30,000 volunteers to each trial, which in pre-pandemic times would have taken months and even years.
We do not know the long-term side effects
One thing speeding up patient recruitment cannot solve is understanding the long-term side effects of a new drug. However, by having so many people enrolled this quickly does mean we’ll be able to collect the data much faster than the industry normally does.
Clinical trials exist to understand the possible effects of a drug on a representative sample of the general population. When drugs reach the market, other issues could come to light that weren’t uncovered during the trial, which is why we have ongoing monitoring by global regulators, even after they have been fully licenced.
Nothing is categorically risk free. There have already been flashes of panic from some governments about the current vaccines. However, these early worries have to be put into context.
According to independent news site, the Guardian, serious side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine are estimated to occur in one in every 100,000 vaccinated people. According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the widely used and accepted contraceptive pill results in five to 12 women per 100,000 being put at risk of developing blood clots.
In April 2021, the EMA concluded that blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as a very rare side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The question you must ask yourself is do the rewards outweigh the potential risks?
Vaccines aren’t effective
Now we come onto the question of efficacy. Are these vaccines as effective as the headlines across the world say they are?
At the beginning of the pandemic, the FDA said they’d consider approving a vaccine if it was over 50% effective, which is in line with the bar set for the annual flu jab. As it turned out, many of the vaccines developed are over 90% effective in fighting COVID-19.
It’s not exaggerating to suggest the vaccines that have been developed are better than we could have ever hoped for. As a result, the mRNA technology used in the Moderna and Pfizer is now being applied to other vaccines, including the flu jab.
The proof is in the pudding. Countries that have rolled out their vaccine program effectively are able to lift lockdown restrictions quicker. The United Kingdom was an early adopter of the vaccine and, as of 30 June 2021, nearly 50% of its population has been fully vaccinated. Consequently, the number of deaths related to COVID-19 slowed dramatically as well as the rate of infection, meaning all lockdown restrictions are due to lift July 19th, 2021.
America is only slightly behind the UK with 47% of it’s population being fully vaccinated (at the time of writing). Over 600,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and many millions have been seriously ill with the disease. The only way to get back to normal life is if people get themselves vaccinated so we can get on top of the virus. We will only be protected when everyone is protected.
People who take part in clinical trials are heroes
We are indebted to the incredible scientists who developed the vaccines, the staff at clinical sites who worked tirelessly to recruit enough people to trials, and of course, to the hundreds of thousands of people who stepped up to take part in these studies. Velocity’s sites alone recruited over 11,000 volunteers to the COVID-19 vaccine trials across the US.
Together we can continue to cure diseases and find vaccines and treatments for issues that affect millions across the world. It all starts by volunteering: https://velocityclinical.com