Are China and Russia moving too fast on the coronavirus vaccine?
By Kent R. Kroeger (September 22, 2020)
In May, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) — one of the world’s leading research centers on infectious diseases — issued a warning about any expectations of a coronavirus vaccine being available soon or 100 percent effective once available.
Among CIDRAP’s recommendations for policymakers were these two warnings:
States, territories, and tribal health authorities should plan for the worst-case scenario, including no vaccine availability or herd immunity.
Risk communication messaging from government officials should incorporate the concept that this pandemic will not be over soon and that people need to be prepared for possible periodic resurgences of disease over the next 2 years.
Five months later, their cautious words remain relevant.
While the world may be closer than ever to its first regulatory-approved coronavirus vaccine — at least nine vaccines are already in Stage 3 testing — there is a concern among scientists that this first vaccine may not be effective enough to achieve herd immunity (estimated to be around 60 to 70 percent of a population) and could discourage the development of significantly better alternatives.
This month, China announced it has started to deploy two state-approved coronavirus vaccines— both developed by Sinopharm, a state-owned pharmaceutical company — and has already vaccinated over 100,000 people.
Remarkable is that China is doing this while still in Phase 3 trials for the vaccines (see Figure 1 below for a description of the five stages/phases in vaccine development).
In addition to China, Russia has also approved a new coronavirus vaccine.
Scientists outside of China are predictably concerned and skeptical of China’s aggressive vaccine rollout.
“One needs to carefully conduct clinical trials of adequate size with adequate time for follow-up, look at both efficacy and safety, and those data have to be very carefully reviewed before you start giving the vaccine to people outside of a carefully designed clinical trial,” Daniel Salmon…