The Race for the Vaccine

By : Elias Forero Illera
Internista reumatólogo. Rheumatologist internist. Internista reumatologista

07 October, 2020

"To develop a vaccine or any other medication for human consumption requires the compliance of a process with certain specific established execution timings. It is not an easy task."

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The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed some years ago in their weekly report of morbidity and mortality that vaccination was one of the most important public health advances of the 20th century. 1. The use of vaccines became a fundamental pillar for health at the extremes of life; children and elders manage to control over 16 diseases with this primary prevention measure. 

It is easy to understand, after reviewing previous data, that all of the organisms of global leadership have their hopes set on vaccination as the way to restore global order after the chaos induced by Sars-CoV-2.  

However, developing a vaccine or any medication for human use requires compliance with a standardized research process with some fully established execution timings. 

The process is not an easy task, pharmaceutical companies may take up to 15 years sorting the complex but necessary phases of pharmaceutical development. Despite the rush that we have due to the ongoing pandemic, not to comply with these research phases implies overlooking serious risks. A defect in the manufacturing process may lead to a disease outbreak.  

This was the case of the so-called Cutter incident, where a defective poliomyelitis vaccine – manufactured by Cutter Laboratories – produced 40.000 new cases of poliomyelitis, including 200 cases of paralysis and 10 deaths. This is why ads are concerning, quite similar to a billboard, informing about the launch of the new vaccine against Coronavirus sponsored by this or that lab or country.  

It is inevitable to ask yourself, where the necessary steps and timings followed for a suitable set-up of these delicate medications taken? 

The stimuli to promptly develop a vaccine pass through scientific, economic, and political interests. Going down in history as the discoverer of the Sars-CoV-2 vaccine may be reason enough to enter this race.  

It is also reasonable to consider the economic interest as a cause of this rush. Scientifics that work on these fields are usually austere and have a philanthropic personality, but man does not live on science alone. Not to mention the multinational pharmaceuticals, always waiting to patent molecules that produce enough income for their pockets; they are all on the lookout, of course, of the “Holy Grail” that will solve the pandemic. 

The interest of politicians and current leaders for presenting a successful therapy is not less. These, driven by the need to show results before a society that is known to be lacking invested leaders with the necessary courage to handle the crisis, pressure the pharmaceutical companies and researchers into providing a solution in record time.  

The studies with other coronavirus and the current scientific development found the path and decreased timings in certain phases. At the moment of writing this text there are 108 vaccine prospects available, six of them are on phase III of research, all in the search to prove their safety and efficacy. Two necessary aspects, but that are not enough to achieve the desired social and economic stability. 

It turns out that the vaccines and treatments that are developed also have to be produced in the necessary amounts in order to provide for the entire world. As if the above was not enough, it is not enough to have safe, effective vaccines that are available to everyone, they also have to convince 4 out of every 10 people that doubt the effectiveness of the vaccine, according to a recent report published in Annals of internal Medicine.  

In the face of this situation, scientists must work day and night to overcome these and other obstacles in the race towards defeating the virus. Meanwhile, we must put into practice without any delay the three methods that from the beginning were known to control the pandemic and that recently have been proven to be effective contagion prevention measures: washing your hands, using a face mask, and physical distancing 4-5, there is no other way.   



1. CDC. Ten Great Public Health Achievements -- United States, 1900-1999. Disponible en:

2. Offit PA. The cutter incident, 50 years later. N Engl J Med 2005; 352 (14):1411-1412 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp048180

3. Fisher K, Bloomstone S, Walder J, Crawford S, Fouayzi H, Mazor K. Attitudes Toward a Potential SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine: A Survey of U.S. Adults. Ann Intern Med. 2020;10.7326/M20-3569. doi:10.7326/M20-3569

4. Gandhi M, Rutherford G. Facial Masking for Covid-19 — Potential for “Variolation” as We Await a Vaccine. N Engl J Med. 2020: 1-3 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2026913

5. Clipman SJ, Wesolowski AP, Gibson DG, Agarwal S, Lambrou AS, Kirk GD, Labrique AB, Mehta SH, Solomon SS. Rapid real-time tracking of non-pharmaceutical interventions and their association with SARS-CoV-2 positivity: The COVID-19 Pandemic Pulse Study. Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Sep 2:ciaa1313. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1313.



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