By: Samuel Schwartz
Line O’ Type News Co-Editor
With the Covid-19 pandemic still persisting throughout the world, people are hopeful that a vaccine will be just around the corner. Unfortunately, one of the large drugmakers in the latter stages of vaccine development has halted its clinical trials. Johnson & Johnson has, as of Monday, October 12, halted its clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine after a participant fell ill, according to Bloomberg. Johnson and Johnson is not the only drugmaker to have stopped its testing; drugmaker Astra also had to halt its trials after a participant fell ill last month. There are still multiple other drugmakers in their final phases of clinical testing, but according to Hassan Vally, an associate professor in epidemiology at La Trobe University in Melbourne, “We’re going to have to get used to hearing these sorts of reports of pauses.”
With the speed and scale of the clinical testing, caution and transparency are vital for public support. Trust in a vaccine has severely dropped in recent months. Compared to 72% of people saying they would get the vaccine in May, as of September that number has fallen to 51% according to the Pew Research Center. The idea of a vaccine coming quickly -the hope is by November- has been pushed by President Trump; however, his own director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield has testified to senators that “A vaccine would most likely not be available until the middle of next year.” Other officials have also said that supplies of the vaccine in the first months would be limited.
In such a case where the vaccine is limited, the WHO has laid out a plan for those who would be first in line to receive the vaccine. At the top of its list are healthcare workers followed by medically vulnerable groups. Following those groups, the plan prioritizes workers in essential industries that place workers in contact with many people. Along with these workers, other top priorities are crowded settings such as homeless shelters. After these groups, they plan on offering the vaccine to people at increased risk of exposure, which is their largest phase being around 40-45% of the population. Their final phase will be all remaining residents. If the vaccine is not available to all people immediately, which is likely, this will be the plan most likely offered to distribute the vaccine.
While the idea of the vaccine being available in the near future is seeming more unlikely, the speed at which we’re nearing a vaccine is unprecedented. Although news of clinical trials stalling is frustrating, it goes to show that the drugmakers are taking precautions to make sure that their vaccines are safe before pushing them out to the public.