Halloween supplies are already on shelves and fall is upon us. There’s brand new information out too, suggesting vaccines are around the corner and the US will have a magical end to COVID 19. Let’s take a “time out.”
Just as too much candy makes kids go a little wild, too much conflicting information is testing our reality. Even dressing up as a magician will not bring forth a cure for COVID in time for Halloween.
No Trick Just Facts:
Three facts frame an evidence-based perspective on a vaccine for COVID 19.
- Developing a vaccine is an intricate process based on scientific knowledge of the disease it aims to prevent. Vaccine development usually takes years as a result.
- The success rate for existing vaccine development was calculated over a twenty-year time frame, from January 2000 to January 2020 by MIT. Their analysis shows 6% success rate.
- In August 2020, 140 vaccines are currently under for COVID. This summary from Biopharma provides details on the 34 vaccines that are in human trials as of September 3, 2020.
Review this information is quickly fatiguing in both the scope and intensity of scientific work underway. Each one of the vaccines under investigation takes a slightly different approach to the virus.
The chief target in these vaccines are the spikes that sits on the viral envelope. The COVID spikes are the keys by which they gain access to the human cells. Once they gain access, they can overtake the machinery of the human cells and begin their massive effort at replicating themselves as full infecting their victim. Then they can continue to move on to the next human they encounter.
Daily, various research labs around the world are continuing to learn more about how this spike operates, feeding that information into the research community to support vaccine development. We must keep in mind however that the MIT analysis shows that in reality 60 percent of vaccines fail.
NO Magic Here
IF the world can have vaccines against COVID it will improve quality of life as well as stem the tide of further economic downturns. The vaccine “drama” in the US however has clouded the complexity and seriousness of this research.
Here are three questions to ask yourself when you hear news or reports about a vaccine study. Use these to make sense of confusing media wording.
What should I consider when I see or hear a media report on a vaccine?
All clinical trials are conducted according to a research protocol. This is the scientifically based roadmap to how the trial will be conducted and evaluated. Research protocols are written by the lead scientists and submitted for review to an Institutional Review Board, IRB. The IRB has the power to approve, deny, or recommend changes in the protocol. There is no recruitment into clinical trials until the protocol is formally approved.
Clinical trials have three phases.
- In Phase I a small group of volunteers (usually under 50) receives the vaccine to test safety and look for side effects.
- In Phase II trials the volunteer group is larger, several hundred, where safety will continue to be evaluated and the ability of the vaccine to produce an immune response.
- Phase III is most comprehensive in clinical research and several thousand volunteers are needed. In the case of COVID vaccine trials, the desired number is 30,000 or more. Safety and efficacy are the gold standard measures in this phase. Without sufficient sample size, and clear evidence of both safety and the effectiveness of the vaccine to produce an immune response it cannot be submitted for approval by a government.
Be an informed consumer of vaccine news. Ask yourself:
- What Phase is the trial currently in? Understand how many volunteers are in this trail and whether they all received either the experimental dose or a placebo.
- Does the media report describe any side effects? Does the news identify what are they and how many volunteers are impacted?
- Have the researchers published the results in a scientific journal? Most of the professional journal will allow research colleagues and others to read the abstract of the trial.
Use evidence-based information to determine if vaccine news is reality and anticipate how soon a vaccine or series of vaccines may be available to the public. In the US, the FDA makes the final call on the safety of a vaccine for public use. Information coming directly from the FDA is a good source to follow.