Approval of corona vaccines: play it safe


When approving a new corona vaccine, thoroughness and transparency must take priority over speed. Because when it comes to vaccines, a few days more or less no longer matter.

A comment by Stephan Ueberbach, ARD-Studio Brussels

Of course that’s good news, what else? For the first time, a corona vaccine has received the official blessing. With the market approval in Great Britain for the drug from the Biontech-Pfizer group, after the many dark months of this pandemic, there is a glimmer of hope, and more than that. The return to a halfway normal life is by no means a thing of the past, it seems but at least to be within reach. That is encouraging. However, the accompanying circumstances raise a number of questions.

For example, how the UK Medicines Agency came to the unusually quick decision that health experts, to put it mildly, consider problematic. After all, the manufacturer Biontech has just submitted extensive data on the new active ingredient to the European agency. So have the experts in London really been able to check all risks, the possible dangers and side effects for risk groups such as the elderly or patients with previous illnesses?

Race for vaccines would be wrong

The howl of triumph from the United Kingdom sounds pretty weird. Not because Prime Minister Boris Johnson raves about a “fantastic day”, but because others in the British government are happy to speak of a success that only Brexit will make possible. I beg your pardon? Firstly, the UK is still bound by many EU regulations until the end of the year, and secondly, all European countries have the option of bringing important new drugs onto the market by means of emergency approval. Just nobody does it. And that’s right too.

After all, everyone still has bad memories of how everyone suddenly became next to himself at the beginning of the corona pandemic. Borders were closed, protective masks hoarded, hospital beds blocked. According to the motto: If everyone thinks of themselves, everyone is thought of.

Everyone agreed that this should not happen again if possible. One thing is clear: an international race for vaccines would be completely wrong. During development, but more importantly: Thorough and transparency are required for approval.

Politics shouldn’t play a role

After all, people have to trust medicines. And they will only do so if they are convinced that a vaccination is effective and safe and that scientific criteria are decisive for approval and that politics do not play a role.

Unfortunately, this suspicion arises in Great Britain. After all, Prime Minister Johnson is under tremendous pressure because of, shall we say, his Corona strategy, which is not always straightforward, and is urgently dependent on reports of success – also because the Brexit talks with the EU are threatening to hit the wall, which would mean additional chaos at the turn of the year .

We have endured the pandemic for almost a year now. When it comes to vaccines, a few days more or less no longer matter. In any case, it will take a long time before the widespread effect can be seen. So we should be patient, wait for the decision of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), avoid unnecessary risks and thus play it safe. It’s pretty British, actually.

Editorial note

Comments generally reflect the opinion of the respective author and not that of the editors.

Tagesschau reported on this topic on December 2nd, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.

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