Were COVID-19 vaccines developed in a hurry?
Text updated on 2021-05-03
The vaccines were developed in record time but no phase was rushed. It is the convergence of exceptional human and financial resources and a high probability of being contaminated by SARS-CoV-2 that allowed researchers to develop vaccines so quickly.
All phases of development through to commercialization of a vaccine take an average of 10 to 20 years on average - and sometimes even longer. This long duration is often linked to the low frequency of diseases: vaccinating against a disease that represents only a few hundred cases per year takes much longer than a very frequent disease. When there is an emergency, no steps can be skipped, but it is possible to shorten the timeframe as has been done in the development of vaccines against Ebola disease. It takes a minimum of 12 to 18 months for a vaccine candidate to go through all phases of a vaccine development clinical trial. See the question How do you know if a vaccine is safe and protects against COVID-19 ?
The timeliness of clinical trials for COVID-19 can be explained by several factors:
- Funding has not been an obstacle. The pharmaceutical industries have not had to search for funds that last for long periods of time and have received subsidies from the government. Exceptional financial resources have been given to the pharmaceutical industry for the development of vaccines (Operation Warp Speed in the United States, for example).
- Thousands of scientists contributed to the effort.
- Tens of thousands of people quickly signed up to participate in clinical trials testing the COVID-19 vaccines in 2020, when it often takes 12 to 18 months to recruit participants for such trials.
- The vaccines were tested on a larger number of participants than many previous vaccines against other diseases.
- Due to the relatively high frequency of COVID-19 in the population, observation of vaccine efficacy based on the occurrence of natural infections has been more rapid than for other rarer diseases.
- Pharmaceutical companies began investing in the logistics and manufacturing processes for vaccines early in the epidemic (in parallel with their development and clinical trials), so there was no delay between the completion of clinical trials and the deployment of vaccines.
Ten reasons why vaccines against COVID-19 were developed so quickly.Finn, A. (2020) Ten reasons we got COVID-19 vaccines so quickly without 'cutting corners'. The Guardian. 26 Dec 2020. Last Accessed 2 February 2021.
Precise explanations of the development process for COVID-19 vaccines.The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook. Last accessed February 2, 2021.
Current status of vaccines against COVID-19. World Health Organization publication updated twice a week.WHO (2021) The COVID-19 candidate vaccine landscape.
The vaccine development process.https://www.infovac.ch/fr/faq/developpement-d-un-vaccin