In many countries, mass vaccination against the coronavirus has begun. As a reminder, in December last year, a vaccine developed jointly by Pfizer from the USA and BioNTech from Germany was approved for use in Europe. This year, a vaccine by the American company Moderna was also approved for use in the European Union.
How was a COVID-19 vaccine developed and approved so quickly?
After all, usually the process of its creation takes many years.
Experts explain this for a number of reasons.
1. Companies have been working for years to develop technologies to develop vaccines based on the genetic codes of pathogens.
2. China quickly identified the virus and published the sequence of its genetic code. This made it possible to quickly begin work on the vaccine.
3. Many companies immediately provided funds to develop a vaccine.
4. The Regulatory and Ethics Commissions gave priority to applications for vaccine research, so the approval process was greatly accelerated.
5. Clinical trials began promptly.
6. Research data was collected electronically.
7. The research attracted a large number of volunteers. It usually takes weeks to find volunteers, but in the event of the Covid-19 pandemic, volunteers were found in a matter of hours.
8. Clinical trials yielded results quickly.
9. Vaccines have shown good results already at an early stage of development.
10. Data from clinical trials and vaccines were presented to regulatory and vaccine certification bodies during the trial. This has greatly accelerated the vaccine review and approval process.
When can you be sure that the vaccine used for the vaccination will be real?
As more countries begin to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, the risk of fake vaccines on the market is increasing. The European Union’s police service Europol issued this warning, the DW portal reports.
Back in March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning about uncertified sites advertising means that supposedly can be used to cure the coronavirus or protect yourself from infection.
“The habit of self-medication and self-selection of drugs has led to the emergence of several thousand sites that provide users with uncontrolled access to substandard and counterfeit drugs,” Pernet Bourdillon Esteve, a representative of the WHO, said.
Why are fake vaccines dangerous?
Some people think that the problem of counterfeit drugs is only relevant to poor countries, but this is far from the case.
“No country is immune to the emergence of substandard or counterfeit drugs on the market,” experts say, “What was previously considered a problem in developing countries and low-income countries, has now become a problem for the whole world.”
At the same time, the harm caused to patients as a result of the use of substandard or counterfeit drugs is difficult to assess. Usually the product is not hazardous to health, but it also lacks therapeutic properties. However, the use of certain drugs can cause serious harm to the patient’s health or even cause their death.
Just a few numbers are enough to understand how profitable the counterfeit drug business is. According to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2016, the total global trade in counterfeit medicines reached $ 4.4 billion.
According to the UN, up to 2 billion people worldwide lack access to essential medicines, vaccines and medical equipment. This deficit is often made up by substandard or counterfeit drugs.
Long vaccine supply chains are more vulnerable
However, even if the vaccine is not counterfeit, it may not meet quality standards due to a violation of its production technology, as well as storage or transportation rules. For example, the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the German company BioNTech and the American Pfizer must be carried out under special conditions – at low and even ultra-low temperatures.
As for fake vaccines, the true origin of which is deliberately hidden, such drugs can enter the legal supply chain at any stage.
According to experts, this can happen both at an early stage – for example, during the delivery of the vaccine to the airport, and at a later stage, when the vaccine is delivered to medical facilities in the country of destination. Moreover, the longer the supply chain, the more vulnerable it is. This is especially true for drugs, the demand for which far exceeds the supply – as is the case with the COVID-19 vaccine.
WHO finds fake coronavirus vaccines
As noted in the report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, one of the factors contributing to the development of the trade in counterfeit drugs is the low risk of criminal prosecution. Most counterfeits tend to be discovered only after they fall into the hands of retailers or patients. It can usually be difficult to trace complex supply chains or prove at what stage a substitution was made.
Recently, information appeared on the internet that fake COVID-19 vaccines have flooded the Canadian online market. On this occasion, the Ministry of Health of Canada appealed to fellow citizens with an appeal not to buy vaccines for COVID-19 online or from unauthorized sources. “All vaccines require difficult storage conditions to maintain their quality,” the ministry said in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines have a tightly controlled supply chain and will only be provided through clinics organized or approved by local health authorities.” At the same time, Canadian police said that sites selling illegal drugs often contain malware and steal personal data.
Lithuanian police have also already warned about the appearance on the Lithuanian market of sellers of “vaccines” and assured that all of them would be brought to justice.
In all these cases, the spread of drugs has been prevented, and there is no cause for concern yet. However, in any case, it should be remembered that vaccination against coronavirus is carried out only by medical institutions, according to a specially approved scheme. Only then the risk of being vaccinated with a fake vaccine is eliminated.