Muh vaccine!

I really want to see a vaccine appear soon, since it’s our only hope for ending this pandemic in the long run. I’m also realistic and know that it would be really unusual to develop one this quickly. AstraZeneca is testing one, and already the trial is on hold, after bad but unspecified adverse effects appeared in the test population.

This is not surprising, and it’s to be expected that the development will not be smooth and linear. It’s still disappointing.

Next, of course, we don’t even know how effective the vaccine will be. You shouldn’t have been partying yet anyhow.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Meh, it could be one severe case that’s a nothingburger statistically, given it’s a late phase 3 study, but given the mess in the 2006 TGN1412 trial, a pause and examination is quite prudent.
    Especially, given in that trial, 100% of the test subjects now have lifelong autoimmune dysfunction.

    Ironically, this is the day after the CEO was trumpeting possible end of October licensing application submission.
    Equally ironically, the TGN1412 trial followed one year post elucidation of the molecular structure of the targeted CD28 receptor.

    Still, less than a year since the emergency of a novel pathogenic virus to a vaccine candidate is historic! It took far longer with Ebola, despite loads of understanding about how the virus entered the cell and proliferated, using similar techniques. That’s drawing akin to where we were with bacterial illness vaccines during the 1918 influenza pandemic, where doctor cultured the pathogenic bacteria and rapidly produced a working vaccine (if rather hit or miss under today’s methods and understanding).

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    (Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc has paused a late-stage trial of one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates after a suspected serious adverse reaction in a study participant, health news website Stat News reported on Tuesday.

    I am surprised one participant with a bad reaction would be enough to shut it down. I thought this would be about statistical effects.

  3. John Morales says

    Reginald, next paragraph: “It quoted an AstraZeneca spokesperson as saying in a statement that the “standard review process triggered a pause to vaccination to allow review of safety data.””

    In short, you are surprised by the standard.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    There is so much expertise and money being poured into this vaccine search, that I hope one long-term result coming out of this is that, when all the dust has settled, we will collectively understand a lot more about viruses in general.

  5. Grace says

    I used to think that a vaccine was our only chance for ending the pandemic, too. I still want a good vaccine. But I don’t think it’s essential.

    The other avenue is rapid testing. Test results in 10-15 minutes, with large-scale production and batching driving the cost down to a quarter per person per day. Rapid testing could make it possible to gather in person in reasonable safety, with anyone who tested positive quarantining for two weeks. In a few cycles of two weeks, the pandemic would be slapped down, and then it would be a matter of continuing so that we did not have flare-ups. Combine that with an eventual safe vaccine and we might even eradicate it, eventually.


  6. dianne says

    I note one thing: The event was described as a serious adverse reaction (as opposed to a serious adverse event). That implies that the company thinks that it is at least possibly related to the vaccine. My suspicion is something autoimmune. Contrary to their reputation, though, drug companies* are actually pretty conservative about pausing trials. If it’s not reasonably likely to be related, they’ll start it back up.

    As far as efficacy goes, all we know about any of the vaccines so far is that they create antibodies. We don’t know if those antibodies are protective and if they provide long lasting protection. If the winner vaccine is an adenovirus based vaccine, like this one, it almost certainly can’t be given more than once, maybe twice without provoking a reaction to the vector that will make it less than useless, so this had better be a one time or at least one series shot.

    *At least big drug companies. The small start ups with one product…not so much. Little pharma is actually more likely to kill you than big pharma.

  7. dianne says

    Grace @5: The problem with rapid mass testing, at least in the US, is that we don’t know the sensitivity or specificity of the tests since Trump removed the FDA’s oversight of medical tests. So while I agree with you in principle, I wouldn’t trust that method in the US right now.

  8. wzrd1 says

    @dianne #6 and hopefully, it’s fully cross strain protective. It appears currently, that at least some individuals aren’t gaining immunity to all currently circulating strains. Thankfully, those currently appear to be rare, given the non-response and lack of support for basic measures, mandatory mask wear, handwashing, social separation, rapid testing and contact tracing, if that’s more common, we’re in for a major bloodletting when a second wave arrives amidst the ongoing first wave and influenza season.

    In the news, an Olympian athlete decided it would be a wise thing to show she’s not a sheep and go shopping without a mask, fully buying into the freedumb argument. Since, the push back has sent her backpedaling and apologizing.
    Alas, it’s been my experience that those who are loving to play it tough and “independent” are the ones who scream the loudest when trapped inside of a burning building or other danger, while previously ignoring the danger and calling those taking sensible precautions fools and sheep. I tend to agree with characterizing them as an animal, a jackass.

  9. chrislawson says


    Which bacterial vaccine developments are you thinking of during the 1918 flu epidemic?

    Also, we can’t really equate vaccine development times for wildly different viruses. Ebola vaccine took a long time because it posed a number of huge challenges, not the least being how dangerous ebola is to work with. (Infective dose a mere 1-10 virions by aerosol! Case fatality rate 25-90%!)

  10. Arkady says

    I’m currently a participant on this trial. I can’t tell from the reporting if this is a second halt in the trial, or just a delayed reporting of the first halt a few weeks ago, where the adverse symptoms were determined not to be related to the vaccine. As participants we could well have been informed earlier than the media.

    PhD in virology, and signing up for clinical trials has been the only useful thing I’ve managed to do this whole pandemic. The UK has made virtually no use at all of its university research sector, apparently they’d much rather paid oodles of money to their favourite contractors than accept our help [sigh].

  11. dianne says

    NYT is reporting it as transverse myelitis. If so and if the timing is plausible, it’s highly likely that this is related to the vaccine. The question then becomes how common is it and how good is the protection the vaccine provides. We won’t know the answer to at least the latter, probably both, of those questions by October.

  12. lumipuna says

    Speaking of vaccines, how’s the seasonal flu vaccination campaign getting started in the US?

    Will it be seized by the Trump administration’s campaign to convince the public that things are being done to secure the nation against respiratory disease, and the future is bright? Will it be just woefully ignored? Will it be advocated by Biden/Harris shortly after winning the election, at which point entire Republican party takes the logical step of jumping into the antivaxx clown car?

  13. JustaTech says

    lumipuna @14: At my local grocery store they’re already advertising the flu shot is available, which to the best of my recollection is a bit earlier in the season than it usually is. In my (blue but also red) state it’s being strongly promoted by local government and health authorities. Hopefully that means more folks will go out and get one. I’m going to try and snag one this week or next.

  14. lumipuna says

    JustaTech – Thanks. Here in Finland my workplace has traditionally promoted the flu shot in October-November.