April 24th 2021
It is timely that #WorldImmunizationWeek starts today as COVID-19 case counts and deaths continue to spike globally. This global public health campaign, to raise awareness and increase rates of immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases around the world takes place each year during the last week of April. The theme this year is Vaccine Brings Us Closer, #VaccinesWork, and the campaign focuses on how vaccinations connect us to the people, goals and moments that matter to us most, helping improve the health of everyone, everywhere throughout life.
Come back each day for new content during #WorldImmunizationWeek 2021—Vaccines Bring Us Closer. #Vaccines Work
Life as we know it has changed in enduring ways as a consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there are over 140 million cases and over 3 million deaths globally. Scientists across the globe, came together in a once in a lifetime manner to combat this crisis. This global scientific enterprise resulted in various vaccines receiving Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)/Listing (EUL). In the US, the rollout of three vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen holds promise to an end to what has been a decidedly terrible year. The World Health Organization (WHO) has granted EUL for four vaccines—Pfizer-BioNTech, SK BIO AstraZeneca, Janssen (J&J), Serum Institute of India—as of April 14 2021, with many more pending review, including Moderna (approval decision pending end of April). In total, 14 vaccines have been approved by at least one country.
Now, more than ever we are reminded of the vital role that animal research plays both in basic research, such as in understanding immune system regulation, and applied research, where that knowledge is used in the development of cures and other therapeutic strategies. Like so much of #AnimalResearch, the #timescales from bench to bedside are often long, making it difficult to grasp the immediate human benefit of such research. Take for example the fact that in the US, we were able to produce three vaccines in ~1 year that have received an EUA for COVID-19. How was such a feat managed? As we wrote about at the start of the pandemic, such rapid progress was possible because of #AnimalResearch over the past decade into coronaviruses, which included Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), along with decades of prior research into mRNA vaccines.
Generally, the safety and efficacy of all vaccines (just like all other medications) are tested in animals before making their way to clinical (human) trials. Because of the urgency of the COVID-19 threat, however, safety and efficacy testing for some of the 110 candidate vaccines and treatments developed (e.g., Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine) were fast-tracked and Phase 1 clinical trials began—where typically the lowest number of human subjects are enrolled. That is not to say that safety and efficacy was not evaluated pre-clinically in animal models for those candidates, however. Instead, safety and efficacy was being evaluated in animals in tandem with human trials, rather than prior to human trials.
In our subsequent posts over the next few days, we will re-post some of our #Evergreen content from previous year’s #WorldImminizationWeek, as well as new content. These posts will provide a comprehensive evaluation of how and why vaccines work, including the COVID-19 vaccine; the historical aspects that lead to the “anti-vaxxer” movement; and why critical consideration of the facts pertaining to that movement is warranted. We will end our coverage of #WorldImmunizationWeek by relating these issues to #VaccineHesitancy and #VaccineEquity.
~Speaking of Research