(Updated March 27, 2020) | The U.S. recently began its first human clinical trial for an experimental coronavirus vaccine without testing it first on animals.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the trial. Researchers tested the new vaccine on four patients at a Kaiser Permanente research facility in Seattle, Washington.
The coronavirus pandemic caused researchers to fast-track the vaccine.
According to the BBC, there are more than 20 coronavirus vaccines currently in development around the world. This one is the first to proceed to human trials without testing whether or not it triggers an immune response in animals.
Dr. John Tregoning, an infectious diseases expert at Imperial College London, said the experimental vaccine uses pre-existing technology.
“It’s been made to a very high standard, using things that we know are safe to use in people and those taking part in the trial will be very closely monitored,” Dr. Tregoning told BBC News.
He added: “Yes, this is very fast — but it is a race against the virus, not against each other as scientists, and it’s being done for the benefit of humanity.“
Researchers at Emory University announced they will expand human clinical trials for the vaccine. They will begin testing whether the vaccine is safe for humans. Researchers told Business Insider they will start recruiting volunteers to test the vaccine within the next week.
Alternatives To Animal Testing
Vaccine development is a lengthy process that can take upwards of 20 years to finish. Scientists first test vaccines on animals to satisfy FDA requirements. The goal is to ensure that the vaccines are safe and effective before testing them on humans.
Animal testing causes immense suffering to thousands of mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, and primates that are experimented on in labs.
According to the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), animal testing is used as a “stepping stone” toward clinical trials.
However, the organization notes that this is dangerous for two reasons: the species difference and the possibility of contamination from “unknown animal diseases.”
Vaccines, it adds, need to be developed with “sophisticated, human-based methods.”
“Nowadays, many viral vaccines such as polio, rubella, rabies, measles, and smallpox can be produced in cultures from human cells,” says the website.
Technological advancements may afford researchers the ability to conduct vaccine testing without the use of animals.
Computerized human-patient simulators, human volunteers—like those trying the coronavirus vaccine—and computer models are alternatives to animal testing.
Studies show that computer models are especially promising because they can accurately predict how new drugs will react in the human body.