Concerns rise over COVID-19 vaccine trials being rushed

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Operation “Warp Speed” seeks to deliver 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by January. Multiple companies signed deals with the U.S. government in anticipation of rolling out a safe and effective way to stop the coronavirus.

One woman who signed up for a vaccine trial in Austin reached out to KXAN. Abby Strite says she just learned a lab wants to give her the first dose sooner, and that got the attention of a local Congressman.

“They told me that my first appointment would be Sept. 16, which I would get scheduled for one vaccine that day,” she explained.

But this month, something changed.

“I got a call from the clinic—all the vaccines had to be moved up before September 11th,” Strite said.

That got her thinking.

“It made me worry that we are rushing the trials in order to rush the results, for political purposes, and that’s why I contacted y’all,” she explained.

Strite also got the attention of U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35th District). He’s the chair of the House Health Subcommittee.

“I want to be sure that we go only as fast as the scientists tell us is appropriate,” Doggett said.

“We cannot abbreviate the information we need to collect,” said Dr. Laurence Chu with Benchmark Research.

We took their concerns to Benchmark Research—a group running vaccine trials in Austin. They explained even if a lab moved up a vaccination, they can’t rush a whole trial, no matter what.

“We still have to go through the individual steps for patient safety and the quality of the data, so they have something they can work from,” Chu explained.

Doggett told KXAN he wanted to know more about Strite’s complaint, for a simple reason.

“We have a stake in what’s going on here, but the stake has to be in insuring this is a safe and effective vaccine,” he said.

Doggett told KXAN that he’s tried to get the details on contracts signed by the government and drug makers, but so far—no luck.

Benchmark Research also explained one of the reasons companies are able to start phase three trials is because earlier phases have shown the vaccines seem very safe. They also added vaccines are only as good as how many people get vaccinated.

But, public trust is already in a tough spot. A recent poll found 78% of Americans fear the process is being driven more by politics than science.

The Food and Drug Administration could authorize emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine before phase three trials are over. The Financial Times interviewed Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.

He said if a vaccine developer applies for approval before the end of phase three, the FDA could authorize it, if the benefit outweighs the risk.

Hahn also said the vaccine decision would be based on data and not politics.

For those interested in participating in vaccine trials in Austin, Benchmark Research says you can sign up online or call 1(888) 902-9605.

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