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What are the human health risks of fast-tracking a vaccine?

What are the human health risks of fast-tracking a vaccine?

Developing a vaccine in about a year is unprecedented. It typically takes a minimum of 10 years for a vaccine to complete the three consecutive phases of the clinical research pipeline. This is because of the scope and length of the experiments, the need to critically assess the results at each stage and the regulatory paperwork that are involved makes this impossible. What are the chances that this can be reduced to 12 months?

Sometimes these promises are used by politicians and governments to inform public policies. As a result, the integrity of the scientific community is in the limelight and at risk.

Among the top concerns is the potential that a fast-tracked vaccine will have unintended side-effects. No vaccine is 100% safe. Vaccines are an effective way for a population to achieve what is known as herd immunity. An alternative is to let the virus run its natural course until herd immunity is achieved. With physical distance, some epidemiologists argue that this could take two years, during which a vaccine could be developed. As it has happened for many other virus before.

Another concern is that some vaccines can protect against disease (that is, the outcome of an infection) but not against infection (the ability of the virus to get into the body). In this scenario, vaccinated individuals could potentially become asymptomatic carriers of the virus, thereby spreading it. So, poor-quality vaccines could potential turn people into asymptomatic carries that spread the virus.

A vaccine does not have to be the best one, but it does need to be good enough to accelerate a population’s progression to herd immunity. Some vaccines are fast-tracking through the regulatory system before studies are completed and with minimal details of experimental results being released, and that cannot be acceptable. We have Regulatory Bodies all around the World and they should be strict when preserving the safety rules for vaccine development. Those touting vaccines that are in clinical trials should be asked to provide comprehensive details and results of their study. This enables objective and rigorous evaluations by the broader scientific community. A lack of complete transparency would be cause for concern.

For these and many other reasons, a cautious approach must be taken to developing vaccines.

Source: Royal Society of Chemistry & The Conversation España

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