En as a clinical trial physician, I am going to reveal to you what I do for most of the ten years usually spent in developing a vaccine, which is very little.
It is not laziness. All the while, I am offering grants, which are rejected. I propose them again, I wait for the answer, I propose them elsewhere, all this in an endless process. When I have the chance to get funding for trials, I spend the next few months appearing before ethics committees. I await regulatory approval, manage personnel changes within the pharmaceutical company and the “shift in focus” of my trials. Finally, when the odds turn in my favor, I get down to setting up the trials, finding the sites where they are happening and I panic because the recruiting is bad. I then look for other sites …
Usually my problems are mostly regulatory and finally, if I’m really lucky, my trials will end up with viable therapy – or not. At this point, the vaccine may be delayed due to cost effectiveness issues or other obstacles. This is not to mention the years it normally takes to carry out “preclinical” studies, those that precede human trials.
Taking ten years is a bad sign
The next time you meet someone who expresses concern about the astonishing speed of the current trials, point out that taking ten years is a pretty bad sign. Those ten years are not about making sure the vaccine is safe, they’re years spent fighting indifference, commercial imperatives and bureaucracy.
These obstacles in the process are “easy” to overcome. All it takes is unlimited funds, a few smart and highly motivated people, all the global infrastructure for testing, an almost unlimited bank of altruistic volunteers, and a few sane regulators.