By the COVAT Team
Safe and effective COVID vaccines, coupled with successful immunization programs, are needed to end the global pandemic. Not only is the rapidly evolving science challenging and complex, but public trust and understanding of vaccine development, and of any regulatory actions, will be critical to achieve the goal. Yet, during this pandemic, communication, including about vaccines, has often been confusing or misleading, placing both science-based decision-making and trust at risk. Some confusion is related to the inherent uncertainties of emerging science. In addition, financial and political interests or pressures, and other biases, may also distort communications and influence the accuracy of messages on COVID vaccines. As a result, the public and the health care community have too often been confronted and, at times, confused by claims from press releases or preliminary data, sometimes based on limited, inadequate or incomplete studies. In addition, accelerated vaccine development efforts and political pressure on FDA have, superimposed on a background of vaccine hesitancy, anti-vaccine efforts, and a polarized public, raised fears that vaccines may be made available, placing public trust and acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines (and vaccination more generally) at risk.
For these reasons, emerging information on COVID-19 vaccines is susceptible to misinterpretation and misrepresentation, sometimes in opposite directions, i.e. overstating either positive findings or negative concerns. While regulators will ultimately review data to make approval or authorization decisions on each candidate, there are immediate and ongoing needs for trusted analysis based on multidisciplinary expertise, to quickly and objectively evaluate emerging data and claims to help the public, the healthcare community and policymakers understand both their promise and limitations. The need will become ever more critical as information and claims emerge this fall from ongoing clinical trials. The COVID-19 Vaccine Analysis Team (COVAT) has assembled an outstanding group of recognized experts to help credibly fill this analysis and communications gap. It should be noted that COVAT is not intended to assume, supplant or play any role in regulatory decision-making.
With support from partners at Talus Analytics and Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, COVAT has developed and will maintain a simple, readily accessible, online blog forum, which will include brief assessments of major reports on or findings from clinical trials for leading COVID vaccine candidates. As part of this forum, we will also link to publications that COVAT members publish in other outlets, as well as other pertinent, trusted resources.