The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was developed quickly – so how can it still be safe?
It is a question I get asked a lot and, truth be told, was one of my own major concerns, so I decided to find out how this could be correct.
First and foremost, we know that Medsafe, New Zealand’s medicines safety authority, deemed the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine safe. This should be enough to satisfy most people that it is so. No vaccine is made available for public use in New Zealand until Medsafe completes its assessment and approves the vaccine for use. So how did it all happen so quickly?
As vaccines or medicines are developed, the various testing processes usually happen one after the other. However, when the Covid-19 vaccines were being developed, processes were worked on at the same time, instead of waiting for the one before to finish. You could think of it being like cooking a hamburger where previously the bun would have to be fully toasted before the meat patty was made and subsequently cooked.
Speeding up the delivery was the equivalent of cooking the meat patty, while the buns were being toasted.
Secondly, all nations, big and small, donated resources toward the research. The global support for this project, in terms of both people and funding, was unprecedented.
Thirdly, in a world of commercial interests and self-promotion, Covid-19 changed the science world for the better. For the first time in a long time, scientists from around the world openly shared their findings so that any successes could be used by others and built upon. This enabled a faster path to a solution.
Furthermore, instead of Government regulatory bodies, such as Medsafe, waiting for all research to be completed before reviewing the vaccine for approval, they streamlined the process. While the same levels of scrutiny were involved, pharmaceutical companies were able to submit rolling applications by sending data for review as soon as it was available.
We are also quite lucky in New Zealand, in that we have been able to learn from other countries that have administered millions of doses to people already and shared their reports in terms of safety information.
So yes, the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was developed fast. But rest assured, in my professional opinion, it is safe.