COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.
Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.
The big questions: The first is whether people can have rare or delayed side effects, which could be detected in long-term trials with millions of participants.
- "Most vaccine side effects do occur in the short term," Kathleen Neuzil, director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, said at an Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing Thursday. "But we don't know a lot about COVID, and we don't know a lot about the long-term consequences of COVID."
- The tens of thousands of people currently enrolled in clinical trials in the U.S. will be tracked for at least two years to determine whether the vaccines pose any rare or delayed side effects.
How long immunity through vaccination lasts, and whether vaccines will stop transmission of the virus or just prevent people from becoming sick, are also open questions.
- "It still has to be proven if the vaccine can flatten the curve and eradicate the virus in its own right," says Mark Poznansky, director of the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, adding that the immunology of the virus isn't completely understood.
- On the other hand, Neuzil said early efficacy reports suggest "if we can get enough vaccine out there, we can have an impact on this pandemic very, very quickly."
What's next: The Food and Drug Administration is considering...