Why decoding the immune response to COVID matters for vaccines

Volume 586 Issue 7830, 22 October 2020


Editorial | 21 October 2020
Why decoding the immune response to COVID matters for vaccines
Nature’s second progress report on the pandemic looks at the key factors to making vaccines safe, effective and welcomed by the public.
… Trust and verify
COVID-19 vaccines will be considered for approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) under its emergency-use listing — in which a vaccine is approved for use while trials are still taking place. The WHO and national regulators are working under tremendous pressure from governments and the pharmaceutical industry, but all sides must realize that there can be no short cuts to regulatory approval. Public trust in vaccines is essential, which is why regulators must be allowed to complete their work without interference.
Vaccine hesitancy presents further challenges. Any new vaccine must be carefully monitored for adverse effects, especially in vulnerable populations. As we have written before, overcoming vaccine hesitancy will also require radical transparency from drug companies and their academic partners.
Much of the coronavirus vaccine effort is an example of just what can be achieved when researchers, clinicians, funders, regulators, corporations — in short, people — come together to act in the common good. A working vaccine is essential, but it must be safe and effective, and it needs to be distributed equitably and to those who need it most. Until it arrives, and probably for a long time afterwards, people must stick to solutions that work — rigorous testing, tracing and isolating — and change their behaviour to help curb the virus’s spread.