How Could The COVID-19 Vaccines Be Developed So Fast? Can We Trust Them?

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

The COVID-19 vaccines were developed in less than a year without compromising safety and without shortening the evaluation procedures for vaccine development (read more about how clinical trials work). The speed was the result of the combined effort of scientists, pharmaceutical companies and different governments throughout the world. In brief, the vaccines were developed in less than one year for the following reasons.

Scientists did not start from scratch

The biggest misconception is that research about SARS-CoV-2 started when the pandemic began. Coronaviruses infecting humans were already known and studied (SARS-CoV-1 in 2002 and MERS in 2012). Scientists knew the virus' biology and how it behaves. For example, the famous spike (S) protein was already known to be a target for the development of antibodies.

COVID-19 vaccines have been developed faster than any other vaccine in the history of modern medicine without compromising safety and efficacy. They can be trusted and are our best alternative to stop the pandemic.

New scientific and technological advances were used

In the last decade, innovative vaccine designs were developed, in what is called vaccine platform technologies. These are different ways in which a vaccine is packaged and/or produced for it to develop a more efficient immune response. The mRNA vaccine platform and the adenovirus platform have been studied for years, so it was not necessary to develop a completely new vaccine strategy when the pandemic started.

Clinical trials were not so slow

It takes years for all phases of clinical trials to be finished because it is difficult to have enough volunteers wishing to collaborate, and it takes long to have enough infected cases within the tested population. Normally, there are long periods of empty time in between the trial phases. For the COVID-19 vaccine trials, thousands of people immediately volunteered in different countries. Besides, the time was shortened by partially overlapping the trial phases.

Collaboration and money

Vaccine development is a very laborious and expensive process. But as the pandemic tightened up and many countries got caught in stressful lockdowns that affected their economies, the fundings started to flow. Both pharmaceutical companies and governments invested in vaccine development projects without knowing if they were going to work. Besides, different countries facilitated the organization of clinical trials in their territories.

Let's not forget that we are confronting a global pandemic, which made the development of a COVID-19 vaccine a worldwide priority. It is the first time in the history of modern medicine that so much funding and resources have been invested to combat a disease in such a short time.

Contributed by: Text: Nilda Vanesa Ayala Nunez, Illustration: Christina Nowicki

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