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American Medical Association President: Safe, Effective Vaccines Take Time

American Medical Association President Dr. Susan Bailey said during a virtual City Club of Cleveland speech Friday that a vaccine remains “our best hope to defeat the pandemic.”

But she cautioned that creating a good vaccine usually takes a long time. 

“We’re all incredibly eager for a vaccine to fight COVID-19, but if it’s not safe and it’s not effective it’s going to create more problems than it’ll solve,” she said. 

Typically, it takes about a decade to develop a vaccine, according to the World Economic Forum. The speediest vaccine approval ever was four years for the mumps vaccine. 

Worldwide, there are more than 160 coronavirus vaccines currently in development, and many of them are running their various research phases simultaneously to speed the process along. President Donald Trump has said he hopes a vaccine will be available later this year, while Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he’s optimistic a vaccine will be available by early next year. 

The U.S. government launched “Operation Warp Speed” in the spring, putting millions of dollars into the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Bailey said she dislikes the operation’s name, emphasizing the need to make sure that a vaccine will be effective for everyone and that it will be safe. Ensuring that, she said, will take time and care – not "warp speed."

Bailey also noted the importance of diverse subjects in the vaccine trials, noting that non-white communities have often been left out of vaccine research trials. Meanwhile, Black and Hispanic communities are among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic

She also criticized the politicization of the pandemic, declaring that “politics should have no place in a public health crisis.” 

“Misinformation is spread so easily these days by social media, and sometimes the media at large, and so as physicians we have to stand up for science and make sure that it’s at the center of our policy decisions,” she said. 

Bailey said public policy aimed at controlling the spread of the pandemic should be driven by facts and evidence rather than ideology and politics.

Bailey also addressed the false-positive COVID-19 diagnosis of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday. While acknowledging there is some uncertainty about the accuracy of some coronavirus tests, she said the nasal swab test commonly used in Ohio is the “gold standard” for coronavirus testing. DeWine’s false-positive came from a rapid response blood antigen test, which is thought to be less accurate. A follow up PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, the kind Bailey referred to, determined the governor was negative for COVID-19. 

“We need more testing, there’s no question about that,” she said. “But the bottom line is that we can’t sacrifice speed for accuracy.”

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