As the development of a coronavirus vaccine ramps up, some health experts are warning that distributing the vaccine too soon could harm the public.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is one of the scientific professionals concerned about how quickly the vaccine is being developed and tested.
He told Reuters that the federal government should be wary of passing an emergency use authorization for something that is not yet reliable.
“The one thing that you would not want to see with a vaccine is getting an EUA [emergency use authorization] before you have a signal of efficacy,” he said. “One of the potential dangers if you prematurely let a vaccine out is that it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the other vaccines to enroll people in their trial.”
President Donald Trump often has been at odds with Fauci—who maintains deep ties and, likely, a large financial stake, in the pharmaceutical industry—over his questionable recommendations and their motives.
Trump has generally urged a streamlined process that would allow the vaccine development to be fast-tracked, thereby expediting economic recovery.
However, he warned recently that Big Pharma may intentionally be dragging its feet until after the November election in order to inflict political pain on him for cutting into its profit margin with a “most favored nation clause” that ended price-gouging on prescription drugs.
The vaccine developers also may have more to gain from drawing out the development process to extend their pipeline of research grants knowing they may reap less in private profits from putting a vaccine on the market.
More than 100 coronavirus vaccines are being developed in labs around the world, but Fauci reiterated that he is “cautiously optimistic” that a trustworthy vaccination would be ready by the start of 2021.
“To me, it’s absolutely paramount that you definitively show that a vaccine is safe and effective, both,” Fauci said. “We would hope that nothing interferes with the full demonstration that a vaccine is safe and effective.”
Some health officials have said that they would make a coronavirus vaccine mandatory as soon as it becomes available.
Virginia Commissioner of Health Dr. Normal Oliver said he would force Virginians to take the vaccine, or face some sort of punishment.
“[The coronavirus] is killing people now, we don’t have a treatment for it and if we develop a vaccine that can prevent it from spreading in the community we will save hundreds and hundreds of lives,” Oliver said on Friday.
But others in the health community are warning against such drastic action.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, whose company secured approval for the mumps vaccine, told Harvard Business School’s Tsedal Neeley earlier this summer that efficient and safe vaccinations take years of research and development.
Forcing the public to take a vaccination that has not been thoroughly tested would be dangerous, he said.
“What worries me the most is that the public is so hungry, is so desperate to go back to normalcy, that they are pushing us to move things faster and faster,” Frazier said. “Ultimately, if you are going to use a vaccine in billions of people, you’d better know what that vaccine does.”
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.