How can we run drug trials much more quickly than we managed in 2020?

Phase three Covid-vaccine trials started on July 27 (Pfizer, Moderna) and August 31 (Astra Zeneca). The trials had enough data to seek authorisation on November 20 (Pfizer, Moderna) and November 27 (Astra Zeneca), meaning that trials took an average of 107 days. This was fast by previous standards.

If these trials had taken a month each, the vaccines would have been submitted for approval at the end of August (Pfizer, Moderna), and at the end of September (Astra Zeneca).

Our World in Data report that between October 1 2020 and January 1 2021, 50m worldwide have caught Covid-19, and more than 800,000 have died of it. That understates the benefits of being fast, as many more will die in the next quarter, either because they already have it, or because they will catch it in the next three months. There would also have been massive social, economic and mental health benefits to have vaccinated people 3 months earlier.

The world may see another Covid, or a new strain that requires new vaccines. Nothing is more pressing than speeding up drug trials, therefore.




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