Health Expert Warns Vaccine Race Can't Trade Safety For Speed

The American Medical Association talks safety and diversity as potential COVID-19 vaccines go more through trials.
Posted at 4:33 PM, Aug 07, 2020

As potential COVID-19 vaccines barrel through trials, one top medical expert says researchers can’t sacrifice safety as they rush ahead. 

"Operation Warp Speed aims to do in several months what often takes years in the traditional vaccine process," Dr. Susan Bailey, President of the American Medical Association said. "Safety and efficacy are always number one priority when it comes to vaccine development. So whether it's accurate or not, this title does send a bit of a mixed message."

Right now, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer lead the race, each trying to enroll 30 thousand people in their different studies underway now. Johnson and Johnson expects to do the same in September.  

In a virtual forum Friday, American Medical Association President Dr. Susan Bailey broke down the challenges drugmakers face, including an aggressive timeline. The CDC, FDA, and HHS want one hundred million doses of a COVID vaccine by January 2021. President Trump has said he wants a vaccine by the November election. 

"Even if we had 30,000 people enrolled today, which we don't. 90 days takes us to the 1st of November, that's incredibly, incredibly optimistic. And it's it will be a challenge to make that happen," Bailey said. 

Diversity is a big concern too. Dr. Bailey echoed the cries of other public health officials who say more diverse volunteers are needed. 

"Historically, African-Americans make up only about five percent of clinical trial participants, Hispanics. Far less," Bailey said.

A vaccine is still the best bet against fighting the coronavirus. Otherwise, Bailey says the alternative- waiting until enough people survive COVID-19 orbecome immune to make spread unlikely -- is a long ways off.