QUICK READ: There may be ways to cut development time for a new vaccine but the record for developing an entirely new vaccine is at least four years.
First we have to remember that despite the unprecedented push for a vaccine, researchers caution that less than 10 percent of drugs that enter clinical trials are ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The other issue is FDA approval. F.D.A. approvals are no mere formality. Approvals typically take a full year, during which time scientists and advisory committees review the studies to make sure that the vaccine is as safe and effective as drugmakers say it is. There are horror stories from the past where vaccines were not properly tested. In the 1950s, for example, a poorly produced batch of a polio vaccine was approved in a few hours. It contained a version of the virus that wasn’t quite dead, so patients who got it actually contracted polio. Several children died.
Given the financial jackpot of developing a vaccine, the FDA needs to take a hard look at the data to ensure it’s not making more people sick with potential side effects.
What needs to happen is that ALL drug and tech companies need to band together to share development milestones for a vaccine. There are some ways we can cut the timeline but under no circumstances should we jeopardize patient safety.
I personally welcome tech companies in the race to develop a vaccine but Mr Gates, while his intensions are good, needs to come to a basic understanding of the development process and the risks involved. The last thing we need is a vaccine that makes people sicker than patients with the virus who show no symptoms.