The Oxford University, in association with Astrazeneca was the first to announce the major progress in the development of the vaccine candidate for COVID 19, broke out in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The scientists had worked hard, and find out the genome sequence of the virus which was based on the sequence of SARS Coronavirus 2, which would help in future vaccine development. Traditionally, the whole process of vaccine development and testing would take anywhere around between few months to few years. But despite this, Oxford University researchers were able to announce with confidence, that they will quickly bring out the vaccine for COVID 19. This confidence is attributed to their research and development efforts that had been initiated several months ago before the COVID 19 Pandemic.
They had taken a giant leap ahead in the process of vaccine development by cutting research and development, and science and technology. As they were engineering the Chimpanzee Adenovirus Strain to develop a common vaccine candidate, that could later be customized to target multiple disease-causing pathogens. They tied up with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI to develop a standard prototype vaccine candidate, to target any possible disease of the future. The university has already made a lot of progress on Chimpanzee Adenovirus Strain, and COVID 19 was an opportunity, to make it a dedicated vaccine that could target the COVID virus.
Surprisingly, as promised by Oxford University the COVID 19 vaccine candidate was ready by October, and also sent to clinical trials in December. Initial trial data was made public to prove the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, but back then researchers quickly realize that they couldn’t scale up the production to meet the global demands. Thereby, University tied up with Astrazeneca, and signed a contract with serum institute of India and a firm from South Korea.
The development, distribution, and testing of this vaccine in such a short period, was a big success concerning research and development, and about the science involved in it. As the vaccine was adopted by countries around the world, as a part of their immunization program. This Astrazeneca vaccine is called Covishield in India, ran into several problems, and controversies related to its trials. The interim trial data shows only 70% efficacy of vaccine with one particular age group, whereas with other categories it shows the efficacy of 90%. This huge gap in the efficacy rate could only be explainable through scientific data, but due to miscommunication from the researchers and pharmaceutical companies, an unnecessary controversy was triggered which ended up questioning the legitimacy of the vaccine itself.
Initially, there was also confusion about the number of doses that had to be administered to trigger an immune response against SARS Coronavirus 2. The initial data indicated that two doses spread over four weeks were sufficient for the development of immune response, but later studies show that if the dosing interval were delayed the vaccine efficacy would increase significantly. However, the miscommunication threatens not only the legitimacy of the vaccine but also increases vaccine hesitancy.
Several adverse events were reported especially in European countries, after administering this vaccine. Reportedly, the vaccine was leading to a blood clot which could end up even to the death of the individual. The link between the vaccine and this tests was not proven scientifically, still many governments rush to place a temporary ban on its administration, which thereby increases vaccine hesitancy. The institutions such as WHO, European Medicine Agency kept on supporting the vaccine. The United States of America has accused Oxford University of submitting outdated interim data, and their failure to provide final trial data. The institutions such as WHO, European Medicine Agency kept on supporting the vaccine. The institutions such as WHO, European Medicine Agency kept on supporting the vaccine. By the time Astrazeneca and Oxford University could get the right message, the damage was already done.
In the time being USA has approved other vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer, and denied the same approval to Astrazeneca. Later the authorities admitted that they are yet to look at the complete data of the clinical trials. Such faulty communications from the regulatory authorities, governments, and companies end up affecting the image of the vaccine, and the health of commons, as the vaccine is totally safe, this problem is connected the miscommunication from the developers that is Astrazeneca and Oxford University .
These challenges should be a learning lesson for governments, researchers, and companies around the world. It also led them to learn the importance of transparent communications with the public and to build up the required logistics to scale up production promptly, as equally as science and development.. Previously it was believed that when it comes to vaccine development and distribution, science is what really matters. The process of development would take months and years together, and a hence large part of the focus was solely on research and development.