COVID-19 Vaccine Research Update

COVID-19 Vaccine Research Update

Finding a COVID-19 vaccine is an admirable goal that scientists around the world have been working relentlessly towards. We all want to find a way of protecting people from this virus, however, not everyone agrees on how we should go out about this lifesaving research. We can either use outdated and unreliable animal models or innovative, human-based research methods. 

Many animals have been used around the world in research relating to COVID-19 including mice, rats, monkeys, rats, ferrets, hamsters, dogs and horses.

Our position is based on a simple fact, that most new drugs fail in human trials, despite appearing safe and effective in animal experiments. For the sake of animals, humans and science, it’s crucial that researchers embrace innovative, human-relevant research methods to find a COVID-19 vaccine.

A recent, promising update is that Moderna, a biotechnology company based in the US, has developed a COVID-19 vaccine that has a success rate of 94.5% effective at preventing infection. Pfizer, another biotechnology company also announced that their vaccine was more than 90% effective at preventing COVID-19.

Both companies didn’t wait for lengthy tests on monkeys and mice but did the majority of the animal tests at the same time that their vaccines were being tested on humans. This suggests that the animal tests weren’t done for the sake of producing useful results but were instead conducted for outdated regulatory requirements. 

PETA scientist, Jeffrey Brown has summed this up well:

“The message for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is clear: Improve vaccine research by removing the requirement for lengthy animal trials. Decades have been wasted on misleading animal tests intended to develop vaccines to prevent AIDS, tuberculosis, Zika, and other deadly diseases, with nothing to show for it. It’s time to shift the focus from yesterday’s science and embrace the new model that Moderna and other companies have pioneered—and to take it a step further by replacing animal tests with more reliable and human-relevant animal-free ones.” 

Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, Tal Zaks acknowledged the lack of value animal-testing has when he said, “I don’t think proving this in an animal model is on the critical path to getting this to a clinical trial.” 

While we all look towards the future and the promise of a vaccine being easily accessible soon, we can start reflecting on what we’ve learnt. To be kinder, that we are a resilient species who care deeply about one another and even that cruel animal experiments aren’t the answer to improving human health or protecting our loved ones. 

By ending animal testing we can help humans, save animals and enhance science. 

We’d also like to acknowledge the many people who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The loss has been huge and the team at NZAVS want to extent aroha to as many people as possible – Kia kaha, Kia māia, Kia manawanui (be strong, be brave, be steadfast).


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Update: Since writing this article, both vaccines mentioned have been authorised and recommended for use in the United States. New Zealand is developing a COVID-19 vaccine programme, to start in 2021. Medsafe, the Government agency that licenses medicines in Aotearoa, will first have to approve the vaccine as safe to use. It is unclear if this will involve further animal testing. You can find out more at