The companies are in a road race for the Covid-19 vaccine. In this fight they do not hesitate to give priority to public relations rather than the actual results in order to gain impressions.
On Monday, vaccine researchers from the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced the results of a "phase I / II test", suggesting that their product can create immunity without causing serious complications. Similarly, smaller-scale results were published just last week for another candidate vaccine produced by biotechnology company Moderna, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. USA.
As both groups proceed to the final phase of testing, it is vital that the public has a clear and balanced understanding of these projects. The evidence so far suggests that we are carried away by the PR of these teams and by the stories of their astonishing speed that we lose the overall picture. Specifically, neither media, nor did the medical community pay much attention to the possible disadvantages of the two vaccines - namely, the risk of adverse effects, even if they are not life-threatening.
Following the start of the first clinical trial for the Oxford group's Covid-19 vaccine in April, researchers added new sections to the study in which people received acetaminophen every six hours for 24 hours after injection. This does not appear in marketing them, of course, and we did not see any discussion of this unusual step in media coverage in early summer. The newspapers stated that the vaccine had been shown to be "safe with rhesus monkeys" and did not adversely affect these animal tests. But it was a disturbing message: How unpleasant was the experience of people with this vaccine? Was acetaminophen intended to reduce fever, headaches, malaise or all of the above?
The Oxford group is also giving acetaminophen to participants in an advanced Phase III trial that is under way in Brazil. In another large vaccine study, 10.000 people participated in United Kingdom, the participation of people who have an allergy or condition that could be aggravated by acetaminophen is not accepted. However, the extra drug is not mentioned in the trials of the same group in South Africa.
The first people to receive the vaccines are carefully selected as they are less likely to have a negative reaction. If the Oxford vaccine causes them problems, it may not be good for others.
On Monday, the press release for the results of the Oxford vaccine trials described an increased incidence of "minor side effects" among participants. A look at the full analysis, however, reveals that this is a marketing move that has since been split into media reports. Mild reactions were much more common than the worst, but moderate or severe damage - defined as bad enough to affect daily life or need medical attention - was also common. About one-third of people vaccinated with the acetaminophen-free Covid-19 vaccine experienced moderate to severe chills, fatigue, headache, malaise, and / or fever. Nearly 10% had a fever, and just over a quarter developed moderate or severe muscle pain. This is a large percentage for a young and healthy group of people - and acetaminophen has not helped much with most of these problems.
The Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna reflects a different kind of medication: the gradual feeding of selective data through press releases. On May 18, Moderna presented some unstable, positive findings about the provisional results from their first human test. The findings were followed by a stock bid - and company executives sold nearly $ 30 million in shares.
With last week's data from Moderna, the results from the same group of people have finally reached their official version. At the same time, the team recorded a phase III clinical trial of 30.000 people, giving a pair of injections of 100 micrograms of the Covid-19 vaccine. According to the May press release, there were no serious side effects for humans in this dosage group. But last week's newspapers show the full results: Each dose showed signs of headache, chills or fatigue, and for 80% of participants, this could be enough to affect their normal activities.
There is already a high level of misinformation and mistrust about the rapidly growing Covid-19 vaccine in the American community. We may have a vaccine soon, experts say, but "communities are not ready to accept it." Skepticism will certainly continue to exist, as long as impressions and public relations are higher on the list of companies than the real solution to the coronavirus.