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An easily understandable introduction to vaccine development

One of the biggest misunderstandings about the COVID-19 vaccines is that many people feel as if they were developed too quickly. This is understandable and can be easy to think when a vaccine appears to be ready within months of a new organism being discovered. Unlike most medications, vaccine technologies, once developed, can easily be adapted to include different organisms. The vaccine technologies found in the current COVID-19 vaccines existed long before 2020 and COVID-19. They were developed to help deliver protection against a wide variety of other diseases and were already being studied in humans for other novel and rare infections.

These vaccine technologies have a unique advantage over other types of vaccine delivery systems in that they can be produced quickly and in large numbers. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, scientists turned to these technologies to see if they could be used to deliver much needed immunity. This helped decrease the time needed to produce and study the vaccine.

FDA Priority

Because of the priority given to the pandemic, the time it took for the FDA to review all the COVID-19 vaccine information was shorter than the average medication or drug. That does not mean that they spent less time reviewing it; it just took them less time to start reviewing it and then less time to have a meeting to discuss the information.

When a company submits paperwork to the FDA for drug or vaccine approval, it can take a VERY long time before the review occurs. There is a lot of paperwork, and it takes a long time to go through everything.

  • The FDA prioritized the COVID-19 vaccines. They placed their applications for approval to the front of the line of drugs and vaccines waiting for review and discussion. This helped shorten the time to vaccine availability.
  • The FDA has advisory committees that consist of experts in certain areas. The committee members are healthcare professionals that do not work for the government or the FDA. They are mostly practicing and caring for real patients out in communities across the United States. When a new drug or vaccine is submitted for consideration, these committees independently review all the submitted information in depth.
  • The FDA dedicated advisory committee meetings to each individual COVID-19 vaccine and were able to schedule the meetings independent of the regularly occurring committee meeting. Committee members took their responsibilities seriously and scrutinized all the information before voting to recommend the COVID-19 vaccines should be approved.

Including Minorities in Vaccine Studies

The clinical trials for the three COVID-19 vaccines percentage of minority participants was similar to the U.S. population. Since the vaccines have been available to give to all adults, the percentage of minorities who have safely received the COVID-19 vaccine has been far greater than the minority make-up of both the U.S. and Alabama population. This means that we have more information about the safe use of these vaccines in different minorities than we have with many other medications or vaccines.