Drug-Makers to Follow Scientific Standards for COVID-19 Vaccine

    08 September 2020

    Nine leading American and European drug-makers promised to follow scientific standards in the race to develop an effective coronavirus vaccine.

    The companies, including Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, made the promise after concerns were raised that safety standards might decline in the attempt to find a vaccine.

    FILE - A woman holds a small bottle labeled
    FILE - A woman holds a small bottle labeled "Vaccine COVID-19" and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020.

    The companies said in a statement they would "uphold the integrity of the scientific process."

    Other companies that signed the agreement included Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, Moderna, Novavax , Sanofi and BioNTech.

    Ugur Sahin is head of BioNTech in Germany. He said "We want it to be known that also in the current situation we are not willing to compromise safety and efficacy."

    The promise to play by established rules comes at a time of highly politicized debate. The debate is over what actions are needed to quickly control COVID-19 and increase international business and trade.

    Governments race to approve vaccines

    Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia had become the first country to approve a vaccine for COVID-19. But some scientists question whether its quick approval will lead to a safe vaccine.

    The head of China's Sinovac Biotech has also said most of its employees and their families have already taken an experimental vaccine. The vaccine, developed by the Chinese company, is part of the country's emergency-use program.

    Chinese companies and organizations which are involved in developing COVID-19 vaccines did not sign the agreement.

    Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said COVID-19 vaccines could be approved by the Food and Drug Administration just days before the November 3 presidential election.

    The announcement followed comments from President Donald Trump suggesting that the U.S. may have a vaccine before the election. Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee, said she would not take Trump's word alone on any possible coronavirus vaccine.

    The drug-makers say approval for a COVID-19 vaccine must be based on trials of large groups of people from different ages, races and ethnic groups. The trials must compare similar groups that do not receive the vaccine in question. People taking part in the trial must not know which group they belong to.

    BioNTech's Sahin said there must be statistical certainty of 95 percent - and in some cases higher - from the trials to show a positive result.

    Michael Scholl is the chief executive of German vaccine developer Leukocare, which did not sign the promise. He said, "My biggest fear is that we will approve vaccines that are not safe." He noted that an unsafe vaccine will hurt the idea of vaccinations in general.

    I'm John Russell.

    Ludwig Burger, Patricia Weiss, and Caroline Copley reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    standard – n. a level of quality, achievement, etc., that is considered acceptable or desirable

    uphold – v. to support or defend (something, such as a law)

    efficacy – n. the power to produce a desired result or effect

    integrity – n. the quality of being honest and fair

    statistical – adj. relating to a type of mathematics that deals with the study of statistics

    positive – adj. good or useful