It is difficult to not feel at least a small shred of hope in the news that at least one of the dozens of vaccines in development to fight COVID-19 has shown signs of efficacy in testing.
That success, however, does not mean we can let up on practices that have been shown to slow the spread of the deadliest outbreak the world has seen in a century. This is not the time to stop wearing masks, washing our hands and remaining socially distant, no matter how wearying the practice has become.
The vaccine, being developed by Cambridge-based Moderna in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, provoked an immune response in all test subjects who received it, the company reported earlier this week. The treatment also appeared safe for all those who received it, the company said.
The stock market rose after Moderna reported its findings, and none other than Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, said “no matter how you slice this, this is good news.”
But Fauci and others cautioned that a safe, effective vaccine is still several months away under the most optimistic of scenarios. And there’s no guarantee that Moderna’s offering, given to 45 people in early stage testing, will make it through so-called Phase 3 trials, which will include as many as 30,000 subjects.
Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck, which is also developing a vaccine, said in an interview with Harvard Business School that talk of fast-tracked treatments does the public a disservice.
“I think when people tell the public that there’s going to be a vaccine by the end of 2020, for example, I think they do a grave disservice to the public,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, we don’t want to rush the vaccine before we’ve done rigorous science. We’ve seen in the past, for example, with the swine flu, that that vaccine did more harm than good. We don’t have a great history of introducing vaccines quickly in the middle of a pandemic. We want to keep that in mind.”
He noted the efforts that have proven successful in New England need to continue for the foreseeable future, even if the science surrounding a potential vaccine seems promising.
“It’s critical,” he said, “for people to understand that while we hope to have a vaccine ... that they are the protection against the spread of this virus right now by good hygiene, using your mask, social distancing.”
This guest editorial was written by The Daily News in Newburyport, Massachusetts, a CNHI sister newspaper.