Expediting the COVID-19 Vaccine Process May Present Dangerous Consequences

Expediting the COVID-19 Vaccine Process May Present Dangerous Consequences

Olivia Platt, Staff Writer

COVID-19 has run rampant throughout the world and has since been categorized as a global pandemic.  With over 7.79 million cases and 215 thousand deaths in the United States alone, it is imperative that vaccine research plows ahead.  However, we must not ignore the potential dangers of rapid vaccine development, especially for a virus that has not existed in humans long enough for thorough analysis.  

In order for a vaccine to be administered to the public, it must go through a series of steps.  The process begins with preclinical testing on cells and animals, then phase one safety trials, phase two expanded trials, phase three efficacy testing on thousands of people, limited approval, and finally official approval.  As of Oct. 2020, 29 potential vaccines are in phase one, fourteen are in phase two, eleven are in phase three, and five have been approved for limited use in other countries.  

Two of the most prominent vaccine candidates in the United States, Moderna’s and BioNtech Pfizer’s, have entered phase three trials and are expected to produce comprehensive results by the end of 2020.  Another prominent vaccine candidate was developed by researchers at Oxford University.  In order to expedite the development of the vaccine, Oxford researchers were granted permission to combine phase one and phase two tests.  This vaccine was on track for success, however, one participant had an adverse reaction and contracted a rare spinal cord inflammatory disorder, known as transverse myelitis.  Although the Oxford vaccine trial was halted for a period of time and has since resumed, this event illustrates the major dangers of accelerated vaccine development.  With rushed testing, less time is spent evaluating the safety of the vaccine, and patients may experience adverse effects.  

“There is so much room for error with a vaccine that becomes available before it’s supposed to.  People can often be sensitive to new and experimental medications.  If vaccines are not tested properly and are approved just to appease the public, they have more potential to cause all kinds of harmful physical reactions,” said junior Lexi Vesselinov.  

Another major issue with the Oxford vaccine trial has been the lack of transparency between researchers and the public.  Many critics have argued that Oxford researchers did not release enough information as to why it was safe to resume the trial.  

Public opinion has become a major factor in COVID-19 vaccine development and administration.  However, when it comes to safe vaccine production, it is crucial that we draw the line between scientific and political influence on test trials.  If the public becomes too trusting of politicians over scientists, we may find ourselves in a dangerous situation.  With the upcoming election, researchers’ fears have intensified that political meddling could cause a vaccine to be approved for emergency use without sufficient evidence that it works.  Furthermore, President Donald Trump has said he wants a vaccine ahead of the presidential election in November. 

“If public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely.  But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it,” said candidate Kamala Harris at the Vice Presidential debate.

Harris’ statement represents a safe public attitude towards vaccine development.  The only way that COVID-19 vaccine trials can move forward safely is if we prioritize science over politics, no matter how long these trials take.  

“Vaccine trials should not be expedited because rushing their completion could result in sloppy, thus hazardous, outcomes.  Scientific trials are well-established and necessary.  Their purpose is to ensure the safety of a prospective treatment.  They cannot be sidestepped for the sake of political expediency,” said junior Meiling Laurence.  

Overall, it is critical that vaccines are not rushed through phases and trials because of political pressures.  The health and safety of everyone involved depends on it.  Mass administration of a faulty vaccine would be catastrophic.  At best, millions of people would believe they have immunity and could expose themselves to danger, but at its worst, a faulty vaccine could cause an even worse global health crisis.  Furthermore, there is an extremely limited supply chain for the medical equipment necessary to administer a vaccine, and one that doesn’t work could set us back even further.  In the meantime, we must take every precaution necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save human lives.