In order to move the vaccine to market quickly, companies are running multiple stages of clinical trials “in parallel” rather than sequentially. Researchers usually take months between phases to examine data and make sure they understand the information before proceeding, and trials take years, not months. Instead, Azar claims OWS will “compress and wring out every inefficiency in the process and take away every unused day” to expedite the research process. Federal agencies insist they are committed to safety and “will not cut corners” in licensing decisions. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described his goals: “I really want to make sure that we don’t have a vaccine that’s distributed among the American people unless we know it’s safe and we know it is effective. … Not that we think it might be effective, but that we know it’s effective.”
Despite reassurances, there is signs that this rushed pace and inconsistent messaging from the White House about the severity of the outbreak is harming trust in the potential vaccine. As one Twitter post said, “‘Warp speed’ says it all. Project has been rushed and corners are being [cut]. No point producing a vaccine that could be more dangerous than the desease....but tell that to trump. Desperate to find a vaccine for a desease he thinks doesn’t exist. Bizarre.”
Vaccine critics, like those who work in Robert Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense, an organization that aims to undermine vaccine usage and promote the widely discredited vaccine-autism link, have been quick to criticize this process, explaining how researchers made “the decision — deemed ‘morally questionable’ by some — to sidestep the standard process for vaccine development.”
As health economist Jay Bhattacharya recently told a House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, “the fallout from disinformation falsely linking the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism, seeding the anti-vaccine movement, is a cautionary tale.” Public health agencies, scientists, and government leaders would be wise to address misinformation with transparency, honesty, and clarity. Our lives may depend on it.