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Opinion: How to instill public confidence in a Covid-19 vaccine

November 20, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Walter Orenstein, a former assistant surgeon general and director of the United States Immunization Program, writes that when a Covid-19 vaccine is fully vetted and deemed safe and effective, it will be imperative that it is widely administered -- and this required public trust in the vaccine.

Some of this concern is warranted; it is critical that a vaccine is proved to be safe and effective before it is publicly available to assure it will reduce the disease burden and not cause undue harm.

Developing a vaccine and making it available for public use is a major undertaking.

But these companies may soon deviate from the traditional vaccine approval process by filing for an EUA from the US Food and Drug Administration to make their vaccines available to the public as soon as possible.

Given this expedited timeline, the authorization process must be transparent and clearly communicated to the public to instill confidence that no shortcuts were taken that could result in harm to those who get vaccinated.

To facilitate this, investments should be made in developing appropriate communications materials to help explain the vaccine trial and approval process to the public and to health care provider groups.

To ensure vaccine safety and provide an opportunity for the public to observe the data being discussed, vaccine trials should be reviewed by independent committees of experts in a public forum prior to vaccine approval and as administration programs are considered.

There are two major committees that need to be involved in this process: The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), which consists of experts in a variety of fields who can help in evaluating data to determine whether the vaccines should be approved for public use; and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which makes recommendations for vaccine use once the FDA has approved the vaccine.

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