THE VACCINE RACE

One of The Task Force’s programs took center stage this year with the public’s growing interest in vaccine development. Our Brighton Collaboration, the largest global organization of scientific experts on vaccine safety, a network of more than 850 people, assesses the safety of vaccine candidates for emerging infectious diseases. With the onset of COVID-19, the team pivoted current vaccine safety assessments to COVID-19 vaccine development, providing safety assessment tools for vaccine developers to use and monitor safety results during clinical trials.

At one point, there were approximately 300 vaccine candidates in various stages of development, a situation Brighton Collaboration Director Robert Chen, MD, called unprecedented given the scale and the speed of the effort.

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Photo caption: Task Force staff member Lura Daussat receives her first COVID-19 vaccination.

The team developed a list of potential “adverse events” for COVID-19 vaccines with standard case definitions. These definitions were provided free to all vaccine developers to create a shared, common vocabulary to collect and analyze findings. Brighton Collaboration experts also served on data and safety monitoring boards and developed standard templates describing the safety characteristics of the main platform technologies used for COVID-19 vaccines. “We try to share any lessons emerging across clinical trials, to make sure that any of these single or rare events are pooled together, like a meta-analysis, so we don’t miss any of these cases,” Chen said.

“In some ways, COVID-19 is an opportunity for us to raise the bar even higher on safety.”

Dr. Robert Chen, science director for The Brighton Collaboration

“All the stakeholders are doing their best to minimize any risks ahead of introduction; but rare or delayed adverse events will only be visible post-introduction. With potentially multiple COVID-19 vaccines being used, it will be important to track who receives what vaccine and what the results are…Vigilance is imperative as we have never done anything this large on a global basis before.”

Developing the vaccines was only the first of many hurdles. The complexities of delivering billions of doses include not only manufacturing capabilities but the need for refrigerated shipment and storage, sterile conditions, enough vials and syringes, effective logistics and tracking systems, trained staff to administer them, and many other operational components. To learn more, watch the video below.

Learn how vaccines journey from manufacturing to people

To help countries prepare, The Task Force has worked with partners to leverage existing influenza programs’ infrastructure to speed the journey from labs to patients. Our Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI) routinely helps countries like Mongolia, Albania, and Lao PDR prepare for seasonal influenza and other epidemic threats through readiness assessments, technical assistance, and logistics.

Using this framework, The Task Force will support up to 50 low- and middle-income countries to prepare for, deliver, and evaluate their COVID-19 vaccination programs, by helping develop plans and build capacity to receive and rapidly administer vaccines, and monitor and evaluate the roll-out, including timeliness, safety, and effectiveness. With country partners, the team redesigned influenza tools and technical assistance to aid pandemic response while increasing influenza vaccination and efforts to prevent a flu pandemic.

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