Nine Leading Pharma Companies Sign Pledge to Uphold Ethical and Scientific Standards For Covid19 Vaccine
In a bid to quell public concerns on the safety and efficacy of potential vaccines against Covid19, nine leading, rival pharmaceutical companies have come together to make a “historic pledge” — which states that they will “stand with science,” and follow “high ethical standards and sound scientific principles” in the process of development and testing of coronavirus vaccines.
The CEOs of AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, and Sanofi, have signed the pledge, stating: “We believe this pledge will help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process by which Covid19 vaccines are evaluated and may ultimately be approved.” Several of these companies are currently, involved in large-scale vaccine trials. “We may be surprised but clearly the manufacturers do not want speed above quality,” Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, told BBC.
Even as countries are rushing vaccines trials, with some hoping to get vaccines ready by September, and some by October, the WHO has stated that it does not expect any vaccine to meet its efficacy and safety guidelines, in order to be approved even by 2020 — because it takes time to test them safely. In fact, the media reported today that the ongoing Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial, which experts were hoping would be the first to come on the market, has been paused due to an adverse reaction in a trial participant, while the researchers are attempting to review the “potentially unexplained illness.”
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Last week, a global survey by the World Economic Forum, covering nearly 20,000 adults in 27 countries, found that while only 74% of those surveyed were willing to get vaccinated against Covid19 as soon as the vaccine became available, the remaining 26% weren’t simply made up of anti-vaxxers. 56% of those who were hesitant about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, were worried about the side effects, 29% had concerns about the effectiveness of potential vaccines, and only 17% were against vaccines in general. Amid these fears, the pledge is indeed reassuring.
The New York Times has opined that the joint statement by the rival pharmaceutical companies is an endeavor to restore public trust amid US President Donald Trump repeatedly claiming that a vaccine will be ready before the elections in November, and “heightening fears that his administration is politicizing the race to develop a vaccine and potentially undermining public trust in any vaccine approved.” But, this fracture of public trust played out in India, too, when the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) announced in July that it wanted to release a vaccine by August 2020, prompting experts to criticize the rush — leading the ICMR to issue a clarification stating that the announcement was only meant to “cut unnecessary red tape.”
In addition to jeopardizing global health, even as the world is reeling from a blow to the economy, to healthcare systems, and to mental health, “an ineffective vaccine will only add fuel to the anti-vaxxer agenda,” according to Dr. Ami Patel from Philadelphia. “A health emergency is not a moment for grandstanding by politicians, lives of millions could be seriously harmed if the vaccine is rushed without proper trials,” Sagarika Ghose, Indian journalist, had tweeted.