No. 43




COVID-19 – a Catalyst for Vaccine Development

09 June 2021


RiTo No. 43, 2021

  • Alar Irs

    Alar Irs

    Chief Medical Officer, State Agency of Medicines; Teaching Physician, Tartu University Hospital

COVID-19 vaccines were taken into use quicker than any earlier vaccine. This was the appropriate response of the health science and industry to the pandemic, and among other things, it also shows the possibilities provided by targeted cooperation in an optimal financial and logistical environment.

The world could use this lesson also in tackling other so far unsolved health problems that maybe do not cause such a large short-time chaos but influence life and economy in terms of premature loss of health at least to the same extent.

In accelerating the development of COVID-19 vaccines, all appropriate quality and scientific standards were observed. Rapid preparation of the vaccines was ensured by the researchers’ earlier experience with coronaviruses, the involvement of companies with strong product development experience, the covering of financial risks by the states and the avail­ability of several new vaccine platform technologies. Increasing the flexibility of monitoring process was also of help.

Although communication was more open than is the usual practice in medicines development, the developers and the supervisors were unsuccessful in conclusively explaining to the public and the media the thoroughness of research before the authorisation of COVID-19 vaccines or the inevitable deficiencies of the new medicines research in describ­ing extremely rare adverse reactions. The effectiveness of vaccines and the frequency of vaccination reactions relating to administration was ascertained during the research, but during large-scale use of the vaccines, it became clear, as could be expected, that in rare cases the vaccines also have adverse reactions that were not described during the research.

The greatest lesson to both the devel­opers and the national health systems is the importance of clear messages, so that the citizens would agree to getting vaccinated and the successful vaccine development could have the expected impact on the progress of the pandemic.

The existing and new, gradually adopted COVID-19 vaccines are the main instrument to stop the pandemic. According to the current data, the need for repeated vaccination is likely, and taking into account the mutation of the virus, the vaccines whose technology enables rapid adaptation to the new virus variants have an advantage.