Adverse Consequences of Rushing a SARS-CoV-2 VaccineExpediency should not rule vaccine development. In 1955, the polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk was declared “safe, potent, and effective”. Within weeks, the miracle vaccine intended to end polio was accused of causing it. After years in development, the Salk vaccine had been rigorously tested in preparation for massive trials involving more than a million school children. The success of these trials led to an outcry for the immediate, but premature, public release of the vaccine. Speed took precedence over caution, and serious mistakes by some of the pharmaceutical companies making the vaccine eventually caused the federal government to intervene.
Even though this incident resulted in regulations requiring thousands of tests to ensure a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, in 1976 expediency won out again. Concerns about a new swine flu strain similar to the lethal 1918 version led to a poorly conceived government-backed mass vaccination program in the U.S. Safety standards deteriorated in the rush to quickly vaccinate everyone. Many problems resulted, including incorrect strains, adverse reactions, lack of immune response, and long term adverse effects. Public trust was damaged in both the above cases.
The pressure to rapidly distribute a vaccine should not undermine the scientific integrity of the process.
Terry Pfau DO, HMD