Experts say the US drug giant Merck’s decision to walk out of its COVID-19 vaccine research work should have little direct impact on efforts to vaccinate Americans – and prove safety protocols work.
Dennis Carroll, who led the FDA’s epidemic control unit, said developing a vaccine was challenging and full of failure, so Merck’s announcement on Monday that it was giving up developing two COVID-19 vaccines after poor results was not a complete surprise. International development for nearly 15 years.
He said that the real surprise is its success Pfizer and Moderna vaccines Already widely distributed throughout the United States
Both Vaccines have shown efficacy It is better than 90% in clinical trials.
„In many ways, the Merck announcement confirms the extraordinary success of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,“ Carroll told USA TODAY. Merck’s declared „failure“ comes on the heels of other reports of field trials of Chinese and Russian vaccines showing modest efficacy – at best. „
Merck cited „lower“ immune responses based on early trial data: Both candidates produced fewer neutralizing antibodies than the other candidates. Merck said it will continue to focus on developing treatments for those battling the infection that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.
„We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on candidate vaccines and volunteer in the trials,“ said Dr. Dean Wai Lee, president of Merck Research Laboratories.
Merck vaccines were different from other vaccines in that they used distinct, innocuous viruses to deliver their payload. The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which has been working with Merck on one of the candidate vaccines, said it remains committed to the type of vaccine and hopes to determine whether administering it, perhaps as a nasal spray rather than as an injection into the arm, would improve efficacy.
Eric Siu Peña, director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York, said that Merck’s decision represented only a minor setback for the United States, as the heavy reliance on Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is unlikely to change soon.
„This (vaccine early success) was a big early victory for us,“ said Cioe-Peña.
He said that Merck’s announcement eliminates a potential „one-shot“ vaccine, which could significantly reduce the logistical burden for vaccine delivery in developing countries.
In the world of vaccine development, it is understood that not all attempts will be successful. Hence the US efforts to help fund multiple research efforts and purchase multiple vaccines before their completion.
Ogbonnaya Omenka, associate professor and public health specialist at Butler University in Indianapolis, indicated that Johnson & Johnson and Novavax have not yet finished developing their vaccine.
„If successful, they would be a welcome addition to the vaccine supply chain,“ Omenka said.
Omenka said it would be a normal response to frustration because many people were already concerned about the speed of vaccine production, especially given the extensive scientific data surrounding the process. However, it is imperative to help the public understand that this type of news is not strange, he said.
Ominka said Merck’s decision should provide reassurance that appropriate measures are being followed, and that public safety remains „of the utmost importance“.
„It’s really convenient, albeit disappointing, because it’s an indication that vaccine researchers are following proper safety protocols,“ Ominka said. „It is similar to a flight delay due to bad weather. While passengers may be disappointed, the decision was actually made to keep them safe.“
Contribution: Karen Weintraub
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