Vaccine: limited hope

Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana

Elhuyar Zientzia

Published in Berria on April 26, 2020

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The path to the development of vaccines is long and does not always reach the goal. - Ed.

The competition and the race to get a protective vaccine from COVID-19 go at full speed and every day some progress is launched. Taking into account that vaccination is one of the requirements mentioned above to return to previous activities, it is understandable the hope that has arisen in society. However, several experts have warned that the way to develop a vaccine is long in itself and does not always reach the goal. They have also remembered the ethical limitations.

For example, at the beginning of the month a great revolt arose from the proposal made by researchers Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht. In fact, both researchers proposed testing the vaccine in the African population on a French television. According to Mira, Africans are suitable for testing the vaccine because they are the most vulnerable, have no masks, treatments or recovery units. The AIDS vaccine was matched to the trial of prostitutes: "Because we know they are in danger and they are not protected," he said. Locht joined his partner.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, CEO of the World Health Organization, strongly condemned these statements and called them racists, a reflection of the colonial mentality. The subject remained there, but it would not be surprising that other researchers have a similar idea, since they have already been produced with the AIDS vaccine, like Mira.

Without going further, the Egun Bat Aurretik (1Day Sooner) project has also raised ethical doubts. The aim of this project is to reduce the time of clinical trials. The first two phases test the safety and efficacy of experimental vaccines in small groups. The third phase is done in a larger sample, where volunteers are vaccinated and it is checked if there are differences between those who have vaccinated and those who do not.

This is where the project's promoters want to influence. In fact, only some of these volunteers would become infected, so it would take a lot of people and time to see the results of the vaccine. They propose that volunteers be intentionally infected to save time. That is to say, give an experimental vaccine, wait for a possible protective effect, become infected with the SARS-Cov-2 virus and check if it protects vaccines.

Hundreds of people have already expressed their willingness to participate and have been positively valued by researchers and politicians outside the project.

However, there are still no candidates for the vaccine in the third phase. WHO has announced that the most advanced are in the second phase, that is, they have shown that they are safe and now have to see if they are effective. In China last week they began testing, with 500 people, at the hands of the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. And this week another test has been launched, led by the University of Oxford, with 510 volunteers. There are another four in the first phase and 77 in the preclinics.

Given that the first news of the disease was received in December last year, it is undeniable that vaccines are developing quickly. But, although everything goes well, they will not arrive in time to stop the first wave of pandemic, according to a report published in the scientific journal Cell. In addition, the report recalls that to make the vaccine really effective, it is not enough to be safe and effective, but must be accessible to the entire population. Production, storage, distribution and supply media and infrastructure will also be created, which will also require time.

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