As a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, life as we know it has changed in profound ways. There have been over 140 million incidents and over 3 million deaths worldwide to date. To combat this crisis, scientists from all over the world came together in a once-in-a-lifetime effort. As a result of this global research effort, a number of vaccines have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)/Listing (EUL). In the United States, the introduction of three vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen promises to put an end to what has been a particularly bad year. As of April 14th, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) has granted EUL to four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, SK BIO AstraZeneca, Janssen (J&J), and Serum Institute of India, with several more awaiting investigation, including Moderna (approval decision pending end of April). At least one country has approved a total of 14 vaccines.
OUR TIMELY RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC WAS INFLUENCED BY ANIMAL RESEARCH
Animal research is more important than ever before, both in fundamental research, such as understanding immune system control, and applied research, where that expertise is applied to the production of cures and other therapeutic strategies. The timescales from bench to bedside are often long in Animal Research, making it difficult to understand the immediate human value of such science. Consider the fact that in the United States, we were able to manufacture three vaccines with an EUA for COVID-19 in less than a year. How was it possible to pull off such a feat? Such rapid progress was possible because of Animal Research into coronaviruses over the last decade, which included Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), as well as decades of prior research into mRNA vaccines, as we wrote at the start of the pandemic.
Vaccines (like all other medications) are generally tested in animals before going through clinical (human) trials to ensure their safety and effectiveness. However, due to the urgency of the COVID-19 hazard, safety and efficacy testing for some of the 110 candidate vaccines and treatments produced (e.g., Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine) was accelerated, and Phase 1 clinical trials began—where the smallest number of human subjects is usually enrolled. That isn’t to suggest that those candidates’ protection and effectiveness weren’t tested in animal models until going into clinical trials. Instead of testing safety and effectiveness prior to clinical trials, animals were tested concurrently with human trials.