A leading member of the Oxford Vaccine Group, developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, has spoken in detail about the contribution of animal studies in its success.
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert delivered the BBC’s annual Dimbleby Lecture, outlining the vaccine development process and what lessons should be learned from the pandemic to prepare for future public health crises (transcript) (see also video only available in UK).
She gave a step-by-step explanation of the path to finding a successful vaccine, including the role of animal studies and said:
“If the animal trials showed the vaccine was not safe, or not effective, we would not have wasted time preparing clinical trials that could not go ahead. This time, we did all the clinical trial preparation while the animal trials were still going on.
That way, it was within days of receiving the safety data from our animal trials that we were putting the vaccine into the arms of our first volunteers.”
Commenting on the lecture, EARA executive director Kirk Leech, said: “There has been global misinformation, including by members of the European Parliament, stating that animals were not needed in Covid-19 vaccine research. Now very publicly that fake news has been destroyed.”
Dame Sarah also warned about the need for better funding for vaccine development.
"We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness," she added.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has now been distributed to over 170 countries worldwide, with more than two billion doses administered.