Six months has been spent since the last interview of José Esparza with El Pitazo. Few things have changed, but one of significant importance got completed: the conclusion of trials of at least three antiviral prototypes, with a proven efficacy of 95% on average.
Now, several countries in the world began a vaccinate process with the prototypes. The doctor reviews the vaccines against the coronavirus disease, which has already completed a year spread worldwide.
Esparza, a viral vaccine expert and one of the advisors of the Joint United Nations Programme of HIV/AIDS, highlighted the significant advance for humankind to obtain the antivirals in a short time, especially amid a pandemic declared by the WHO on March 11, 2020.
In a record time of eight months, the American laboratory Moderna, and the alliances between AstraZeneca, the University of Oxford, and Pfizer, together with the German BioNTech, achieved prototypes that stop the lethal advance of the virus.
The formulas were tested over 100.000 persons, with effects classified as benign in barely 1% of the sample. Since its approval in Europe and the United States, the vaccines have become a hope for a society still subject to strict controls and quarantines.
Doctor Esparza recognized that was a big surprise, such as expeditious achievement, which defied all odds. By general average, vaccines take up to a decade to complete a safe and effective trial phase. The context has led to countless versions of the reliability of the product. Infertility, irreversible damage to neurological functions or convulsive episodes have been attributed to the first doses applied but without further technical support.
Esparza, currently a professor at the Institute of Human Virology from the University of Maryland, said all vaccines get based on similar clinical criteria with similarly acceptable results and urged, to control the pademic, to put aside the political ideology of the countries where the vaccines were made.
– In the July 2020 interview, you said: “I do not think we will have a few points before the end of the year. If we have the vaccine next year, it is probably not going to be ideal. It is not going to be effective enough.” Do you keep that reflection today?
No, obviously no. What I said about six months ago was, in fact, consistent with the opinion of most experts, and we drew on previous experiences in the development of other vaccines.
Remember, the vaccine that developed the fastest was against mumps, and that took four years. I worked many years in a vaccine against HIV, and still, we do not have one. So, the complexity of the virus is different.
With all this information, the development of a vaccine against SARS-COV-2 began. Different platforms tested, and I must tell you, it was a surprise that the first results with this vaccine showed very high effectiveness still of 90% or 95%. That is similar to the range of an of the best vaccines, which is the measles vaccine.
– There is some ideal vaccine at this moment? That was one of the points you mentioned last year
An ideal vaccine must complement several characteristics. First and principal, a vaccine must be safe. A vaccine is going to be applied to millions of healthy people. It is not like a medicine or a drug that gets administrated in sick persons. So, the balance risk/benefits are different.
With a vaccine, the balance risk/benefits have to be totally in favor of profits. It cannot be a high frequency of adverse effects. So, an ideal vaccine is safe. Second, an ideal vaccine is highly effective, and that seems to be the case. We do not know how long the effectiveness would prolong.
An ideal vaccine also must be easy to administer. For example, vaccines that can be given in one dose are much better than those that require two, and all vaccines that have been approved thus far require two doses. So, a vaccine that can get kept in the refrigerator has a good advantage. The definition of an ideal vaccine is complex.
– There so many myths about the side effects, for example, that could be critical and permanent. Is that possible in a vaccine that has completed a three-trial phase?
The myths are no proper from the vaccine, instead, are from COVID-19. I would say that in modern society, we are also suffering from an infodemic of fake news. The only proven side effects with any vaccine against COVID-19 have been at the injection site, and these are swelling, muscle pain, and there may be a fever for a few days. Those are the only side effects.
Everything about how the vaccine can transform the genetic material of people or cause sterility is completely false. And I worry because it is part of a belief of a very small group of people that they are anti-vaccines. But that does not happen only with COVID-19, and that already has its history.