NFID Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research
NFID Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research
Source/Disclosures
Source:

Modjarrad K, et al. Vaccine development for novel coronavirus response. Presented at: NFID Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research; June 18-19, 2020 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Bell, Graham, Modjarrad and Neuzil report no relevant financial disclosures.
June 18, 2020
2 min read
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Accelerated COVID-19 vaccine effort should not mean compromises, experts say

Source/Disclosures
Source:

Modjarrad K, et al. Vaccine development for novel coronavirus response. Presented at: NFID Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research; June 18-19, 2020 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Bell, Graham, Modjarrad and Neuzil report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Public-private partnerships, collaboration among researchers and knowledge of existing coronaviruses have all contributed to the accelerated development of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, according to Infectious Disease News Editorial Board Member Kathleen M. Neuzil, MD, MPH, FIDSA.

Neuzil, a professor of vaccinology and director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said vaccine development overall is a “continuum” from the discovery phase to “delivery and impact.”

Kathleen Neuzil quote

Neuzil and other presenters opened the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases’ Annual Conference on Vaccinology Research with a discussion on the current state of vaccine development for COVID-19.

“There have certainly been concerns about accelerating this timeline, and I'm here to assure everyone that accelerating this timeline does not mean that we're compromising on safety or quality evaluation in any way,” she said.

Session moderator Kayvon Modjarrad, MD, PhD, director of emerging infectious diseases at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, noted the unique nature of the ongoing pandemic.

“With the exception of the Spanish influenza epidemic, what is happening now has no precedent in modern history. But then, the response to make a vaccine for this novel virus is truly unprecedented as well,” Modjarrad said. “The global health and vaccine development communities have been discussing and preparing for something of this nature in earnest perhaps for the past 5 years.”

Challenges

Presenters noted several challenges to vaccine development. NFID Director Beth P. Bell, MD, MPH, clinical professor of global health at the University of Washington, said the speed of new research developments and general uncertainty surrounding the SARS-CoV-2 virus can hinder vaccine efforts.

“My own interest and expertise is in thinking about how to use the vaccine or multiple vaccines that may be developed for maximum impact — what policies, what recommendations — while at the same time maintaining pubic confidence in vaccines,” Bell said.

Another subject of discussion was the overarching goal of determining vaccine efficacy.

“Generating a strong antibody response that has functional activity — meaning that it can neutralize or block virus entry — is the main goal,” said Barney S. Graham, MD, PhD, deputy director of the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center.

Bell said immunogenicity is only the “first step” in combating the virus, and that efficacy studies are essential to developing a usable vaccine. Neuzil said that properly evaluating the efficacy of a vaccine will entail follow-up for “at least 2 years” in human trials.

Multiple presenters emphasized the heavy impact the virus is having on communities of color. Neuzil said “closing the access gap” for vaccines may help close the economic coverage gap in disadvantaged communities.

‘The last thing we need’

Bell discussed the potential for coadministration of a COVID-19 vaccine with the seasonal influenza vaccine.

“Because of the fact that we’re in a very uncertain environment, we aren’t likely to have the kind of data that we might like about the impact of coadministration and whether there’s any effect on the performance of either vaccine,” Bell said. “Hopefully, this is something that can be addressed rapidly so that we develop the kind of information that we need in order to be confident that coadministration, in addition to logistically being a good idea, doesn’t introduce any problems.”

According to Neuzil, although a single-dose vaccine would be ideal for COVID-19, preliminary research suggests a two-dose vaccine is more likely to be efficacious. She also discussed the need for widespread uptake of the influenza vaccine as the pandemic continues.

“I really hope, if nothing else has, that this will motivate everyone to take the influenza vaccine this fall. The last thing we need are two outbreaks in the fall and in the winter,” she concluded.