We desperately need new vaccines for COVID.
But before those vaccines receive approval from the powers-that-be, those vaccine candidates have to be subjected to rigorous phase 3 trials to prove the vaccines actually work.
In these phase 3 trials, 1/3-1/2 the subjects will, of course, get a placebo (that is, no protection from the virus) and because everyone wants to know how long the protection from an actual vaccine will last, the current protocol of these trials (which is being heavily debated and disputed) asks that the placebo recipients not get a vaccine for a long time following the end of the trial (that may mean up to 2 years).
And because there are now at least 2 very successful vaccines available to higher-risk people, understandably, very very very few elderly are willing to enroll as subjects in a new vaccine trial because rather than risk getting a placebo in this trial, they can simply wait a bit and get a real vaccine.
Which is exactly what is plaguing Novavax, a company with an ongoing promising phase 3 study.
High-risk people, especially elderly, are either refusing to enroll in the first place, of if they have enrolled, they are demanding to know if they received the placebo, and if they did, they then drop out of the study to go get one of the vaccines that is increasingly available to them.
Which is why Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed in the US, was recently quoted as saying, “We hope Novavax vaccine will not be derailed by the fact that subjects in the trial would leave the trial to get access to a known vaccine.”
But given how hard this has been for everyone, can you really blame anyone for trying to make it easier on themselves as soon as possible?