Coronavirus vaccines: Not thanks to, but despite animal experiments
During the last few weeks, the manufacturers of three vaccine candidates against COVID-19 reported initial successes in large-scale studies involving thousands of people. Many experts advise cautious optimism, as these are preliminary results and the exact scientific data have not yet been published. However, this does not prevent some pro-animal experiment advocates from ascribing the expected success of the vaccines to animal experiments. A closer examination makes it clear that these animal studies have neither contributed to the development nor improved the efficacy of these vaccines.
It is not surprising that animal experiments were not given high priority in the development of drugs and vaccines against COVID-19, because approximately 95% of all drugs that work perfectly well in animals fail in humans. Also, as far as we know today, there are no other animal species that develops the complex COVID-19 symptoms observed in humans. "While some proponents of animal experiments make fearful claims that there would be no COVID-19 vaccine without animal experiments, the very rapid development of several corresponding vaccines up to the present advanced stages was only possible because many of the otherwise common animal experiments were skipped", says Dr Dilyana Filipova, a scientist at Doctors Against Experiments. The need for and development of animal-free, human-relevant research methods are increasing worldwide. At present, 10 human mini-organs, so-called organoids, or tissues can be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, providing important information about the viral interactions with the human organism. A program to test coronavirus vaccines using multi-organ chips was recently launched in the USA. Complex computer models are also used to analyze the presumed effectiveness of repurposed drugs against COVID-19and to evaluate vaccine candidates. “Many important insights about the coronavirus were gained in these models. Ultimately, the development of the vaccine candidates celebrated today is based on such methods and patient data”, said Filipova.