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Covid-19: Oxford researchers halt vaccine trial while adverse reaction is investigated

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 09 September 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3525

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Rapid Response:

Faster distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is needed

Dear Editor

Oxford University and AstraZeneca have paused testing of its COVID-19 vaccine recently due to one case of adverse reactions.[1] According to the School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in London, COVID-19 vaccine subjects enrolled can reach 380,000. This is the first adverse event. It will provoke more discussion about whether research institutions should ensure vaccine safety or shorten research time as a priority. Obviously, we don’t have 10 years to develop COVID-19 vaccines. While this hopeful vaccine is halted, there are thousands of people dying from COVID-19 each day globally. The cost of delaying research is huge. We need standard review processes, but much more efficient than usual.

People expect a perfect vaccine provides Long-term protection and applies to different races and ages, especially the elderly. In fact, there are 211 vaccines in trial. The shortcomings of a single vaccine can be improved by the combination of several vaccines. Corey has suggested it might require several different vaccines to bring an end to the pandemic.[2] We have preventive measures such as physical distancing interventions[3] and protective equipment[4]. Imperfect vaccines can curtail the COVID-19 epidemic[5] under this condition.

It is encouraging that governments are promoting vaccine distribution.[6,7] It is reasonable to expedite vaccine approvals during a state of emergency. The vaccine approval process is designed to protect us, not to bring down societies and economies. It is necessary for the government to accelerate the tracking and review of vaccines under the pressure of the epidemic. We also need to be aware that the upcoming flu season will further aggravate the epidemic. If vaccines are not distributed this year, flu season would aggravate the epidemic and even cause a second wave.

1 Mahase E. Covid-19: Oxford researchers halt vaccine trial while adverse reaction is investigated. BMJ. 2020;370:m3525. doi:10.1136/bmj.m3525
2 Corey L, Mascola JR, Fauci AS, et al. A strategic approach to COVID-19 vaccine R&D. Science. 2020;368(6494):948-950. doi:10.1126/science.abc5312
3 Islam N, Sharp SJ, Chowell G, et al. Physical distancing interventions and incidence of coronavirus disease 2019: natural experiment in 149 countries. BMJ. 2020;370:m2743. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2743
4 Liu M, Cheng SZ, Xu KW, et al. Use of personal protective equipment against coronavirus disease 2019 by healthcare professionals in Wuhan, China: cross sectional study. BMJ. 2020;369:m2195. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2195
5 Iboi EA, Ngonghala CN, Gumel AB. Will an imperfect vaccine curtail the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.?. Infect Dis Model. 2020;5:510-524. doi:10.1016/j.idm.2020.07.006
6 Mahase E. Covid-19: UK agrees "early access" deal with companies to get 90 million vaccine doses. BMJ. 2020;370:m2914. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2914
7 Caddy S. Developing a vaccine for covid-19. BMJ. 2020;369:m1790. doi:10.1136/bmj.m1790

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 September 2020
Yuwei Du
Zhi Zhu
Gastrointestinal Oncology Surgical Ward, First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, China