The race to develop a vaccine against SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is picking up speed with early promising results from initial studies, and President Trump predicting there will be “hundreds of millions of doses” of vaccine by the end of 2020.
Journalists have reported on these early results, as well as Trump’s comments, which may leave the public with a misunderstanding about the process of vaccine development.
Developing a vaccine is a methodical process that requires time – usually years and even decades – and can’t be willed into existence by optimism and political pressure. Most scientists don’t expect a vaccine to be ready for another 12 to 18 months, if not several years, and some say it is possible there may never be a vaccine.
The “language coming out of the White House and biotechs and Pharma companies [saying] that they will have a vaccine by the fall – or in weeks or days – does so much damage,” Peter Hotez, dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, told Hannah Kuchler of the Financial Times.
So why can’t a vaccine be developed faster? How should journalists be covering the vaccine story responsibly? How can they make sense of these promising studies and what language should they use when reporting on them, as well as the announcements from the White House?
Join Maria Elena Bottazzi, Ph.D., assistant dean of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine, AHCJ core topic leader for medical studies and independent journalist Tara Haelle, and AHCJ core topic leader, infectious diseases and independent journalist Bara Vaida for a webcast on Thursday, May 28, at 2 p.m. ET as we answer these questions and offer thoughts on the almost 100 ongoing research trials for COVID-19.
We welcome AHCJ members to send us questions before the webcast to ensure your question gets answered. Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, some further reading:
- Scientists vs politicians: the reality check for ‘warp speed’ vaccine research (Financial Times, May 25)
- SARS-CoV2 vaccines: Slow is Fast (Science Magazine, May 22)
- Coronavirus vaccine Shows Promising Early Results in China: (New York Times, May 22)
- COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: (BioRender, May 22)
- AHCJ Resources: Watch for these four red flags when reporting on medical studies.