The development of new vaccines against Covid-19 is very fast, which is encouraging news for the whole world. In the United States and in Europe, there are already two vaccines that pass the third stage of clinical trials. During each of these tests will be vaccinated many thousands of people, and then we will have to wait to see how many people will be infected. If the vaccine proves effective, after a few months we can start mass production.
But we don’t have to wait. Both these vaccines (developed by the American pharmaceutical company the Modern/Moderna and specialists of the University of Oxford in conjunction with the Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca/Astra Zeneca) in the first phase of testing has already shown that they are safe and probably effective. Therefore, these companies are moving forward and instill each of these vaccines is still at 30 thousand people, as experts of these companies are quite confident that these vaccines are safe. According to “new York times” (the New York Times), the third stage of the test there are three vaccines against Covid-19. One of them was developed by German biotechnology company “Biotek” (BioNTech) in conjunction with the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer (Pfizer), while the other two created in China — the pharmaceutical company “Sinopharm” (Sinopharm) and biopharmaceutical company “Sinova Bayotek” (Sinova Biotech).
So why not start to introduce millions of doses right now? In any case, we should consider possible pros and cons.
(Clarification, 03.08.2020 G.: I’m not suggesting to skip the third stage of testing. Not at all! Scientists should closely monitor the progress of the tests, and if there are any negative side effects, they should immediately cease all use of vaccine candidates to obtain appropriate permission).
By the way, an Indian vaccine manufacturer has already started mass production. Indian Institute of serum (The Serum Institute), headed by Indian billionaire Poonawalla Adar (Adar Poonawalla), is already starting the production of hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine, developed by specialists of the University of Oxford, before it is approved for use. The Institute invests its own money and is at risk based on the fact that the vaccine will be effective.
Why aren’t we doing the same in the US and Europe? As I understand it, we keep two factors:
1. Money. The production of hundreds of millions of vaccine doses worth a lot of money, and if the third phase trials of the vaccine will be ineffective or unsafe, the money will be wasted. I understand why private companies who conduct these trials may not begin mass production. That was then, and maybe government intervention: just buy vaccines in advance! We still were doing it in a rather larger scale: recently the Ministry of health and US Department of defense announced that it would pay the American company “Novavaks” (Novavax) $ 1.6 billion for conducting all phases of clinical trials plus production of 100 million doses before the vaccine is approved.
Given that in the U.S. alone, has spent over three trillion dollars (for those keeping count — this is three thousand times more than a billion) to save the economy, and will spend at least one trillion dollars, a few billion dollars on the production of vaccines (even if the vaccine will be ineffective) seems to be a very large investment.
2. Caution. The usual testing process and obtain permission for the use of vaccines must take place in three stages. On the first and second stages, we carefully check the security and try to determine the optimal dose. Although after these stages, the vaccine may seem effective, the number of people which are experiencing a vaccine is small, and to be confident in the vaccine’s efficacy, we need to bring to test more people. This happens in the third stage of testing.
Thus, at present, the third phase of clinical trials of these vaccines is expected to do the following: pick up a large number of people (in one of the tests should be at least 30 thousand people). Half of them to introduce the vaccine, and the other half placebo. Then wait a few months and see how many people will be infected with coronavirus Covid-19. If the vaccine is effective, we will see that in the group of people who got the vaccine, the number of cases is much smaller.
Great. We need to do, and we do it.
But now we are in the midst of the worst pandemic since 1918. A careful, phased testing regime and permits the use of vaccines was not designed for global emergency in which every day’s delay means the death of thousands of people.
We already know that the third stage of testing vaccines are safe — otherwise it would be unethical to put this vaccine 30 thousand people, as it happens during these clinical trials. (Note: in the third phase of clinical trials sometimes revealed security problems that affect only a small percentage of people in the earlier stages of testing, first or second may not occur. Thus, the safety of the vaccine is determined and in the third stage of clinical trials, only on a larger scale). Assessing the balance of risks and benefits, I think we need to immediately ramp up production of vaccines, using no private money, public funds and then offer these vaccines free of charge to all who want to.
Of course, we will have to explain to everyone who wants to be vaccinated that we don’t know how effective this vaccine is. Forced to vaccinate no one will, but I’m guessing that millions of people want to try. And, of course, it is possible that these vaccines are not very effective, and maybe it will cause more distrust, when we eventually did receive a good vaccine. But we must take this risk, given that due to the delay damage will be more. The clinical picture with the use of these experimental vaccines is already better than when you use most of the existing methods of treatment. And most importantly, we know that they are safe.
So let’s start to vaccinate millions of people now as we can start mass production. I’ll be first in line to get vaccinated the vaccine company of “Modernity” or Oxford as soon as it is ready.