Should we be giving mass doses of Kung Flu vaccines already in development? I’m inclined to say not yet, but here, read for yourselves. Excerpt:
Development of new Covid-19 vaccines is proceeding at a furious pace, which is good news for the world. We already have two vaccines in phase 3 trials in the US and Europe; each of these trials which will vaccinate many thousands of people, and then wait to see how many get infected. If the vaccines work, then in a few months’ time we’ll be able to start large-scale production.
But we don’t have to wait. Both of these vaccines (from Moderna and Oxford University/Astra Zeneca) have already been shown, in phase 1 trials, to be safe and probably effective. That’s why the companies are moving ahead and giving each vaccine to 30,000 more people: they are fairly confident that the vaccines are safe. The NY Times reports that 3 other Covid-19 vaccines are also in phase 3 trials: one from BioNTech and Pfizer, and two from Chinese companies, Sinopharm and Sinova Biotech.
So why not start administering millions of doses right now? We should.
(Update 3 August: I’m not suggesting we skip the phase 3 trials. Far from it! Scientists should monitor those closely, and if any negative side effects appear, they should immediately halt any pre-approval use of the candidate vaccines.)
In fact, an Indian vaccine manufacturer is already moving ahead with large-scale production. The Serum Insthute, run by Indian billionaire Adar Poonawalla, is manufacturing hundreds of millions of doses of the Oxford vaccine, before it gets final approval, investing its own money and taking a chance that the vaccine will work.
I’m as anxious as anyone to see a safe and effective vaccine candidate proved for use, and there are several promising candidates. But honestly, a few more weeks in the Phase III trial process isn’t going to make much difference.
The thing is this: The more people you administer a new drug/vaccine/whatever to, the more oddball reactions and issues you’ll find, just by the laws of averages. Every persons’ individual biology is just a little different, and there’s always the chance that one out of a hundred thousand people will experience a bad reaction that didn’t show up in a trial involving, say, a thousand people. That’s a primary reason that drugs are continually relabeled, as these things are found.
The various institutes and companies involved have already done benchmark work. There is now precedent set; if we can do this as fast as this once, we can do it again, and some of the regulatory obstacles that were set aside should be re-evaluated to see if we really need them at all.
But I have no issue with waiting until the Phase III trials are done. I also have no issue with manufacturing doses of the candidate vaccines in advance, at risk, if it is the decision of those private companies to do so. We’re within striking distance of an effective vaccine now.