We’ve all been waiting and hoping for a COVID-19 vaccine. Children and adults alike want nothing more than to resume normal life and feel a sense of certainty and safety again. However, rushing the COVID-19 vaccine may be worse than not having one at all.
What makes a vaccine safe is the amount of rigorous testing that goes on before it even reaches phase 3 trials. The trouble is, it could take months or even years, but at least it will guarantee safety, and even then there are risks.
After a vaccine is tested on animals, it enters phase 1 trials, in which a couple dozen volunteers are given the vaccine whilst researchers observe side effects. If those side effects are deemed safe or too mild for concern, the vaccine candidate moves on to phase 2, in which hundreds of volunteers take it and are monitored closely for any side effects.
Phase 3 – the most crucial – involves thousands of participants who are given a dose of the vaccine while others are given a placebo at random – neither participant nor researcher knows which one is being administered (a double-blind study) after which scientists wait for the subjects to contract the virus in question, and record their findings in detail.
This may not seem like a big deal since hundreds of observations have already been made in phase 2 trials but phase 3 trials can still fail, and a few hundred people is too small of a sample size to draw any certain conclusions. This fact makes rushing the COVID-19 vaccine dangerous and could lead to a “nightmare scenario,” according to Michael Kinch, a Professor of Radiation Oncology in the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
Vaccines have gone wrong before. The Polio vaccine of 1955 is an unforgettable tragedy in US history. “Forty thousand kids got polio. Some had low levels, a couple of hundred were left with paralysis, and about 10 died,” said Pediatrician, Professor, and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan, Dr. Howard Markel.
“People are going to die unnecessarily if we take chances with this. We’ve got to get this right.” Kinch said.
The consequences of rushing the COVID-19 vaccine cannot be overstated. Not only could it put people’s health at immediate risk due to unforeseen side effects, but it may give those vaccinated a false sense of security, increasing the chances of spreading the virus across the board.