AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, issued the following statement on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19:
“The FDA’s authorization of the first vaccine to prevent COVID-19 represents a promising step toward ending the coronavirus pandemic. As our country and frontline health care workers confront the dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, today’s approval is an important milestone in the fight against the pandemic, made possible by decades of biomedical research within the academic medicine community. This groundbreaking research laid the foundation for and sped the development of this and other vaccines now in the pipeline.
The FDA’s enhanced review process for the vaccine, which has required submission of extensive safety and efficacy data and consultation with its external scientific review committee prior to the emergency use authorization, demonstrates the agency’s commitment to protecting the American people and maintaining trust in its rigorous processes.
Recent polls show the general public’s hesitancy to be vaccinated against COVID-19. In light of this, we must come together as medical professionals to understand the safety and efficacy data that the FDA has made publicly available and instill confidence in the safety of the vaccine and the importance of getting vaccinated in the coming months. This will be critical in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
In addition to serving on the frontlines and caring for patients during the pandemic, academic medicine – America’s medical schools, teaching hospitals, and health systems – has been deeply involved in the fundamental and clinical research that facilitated the development of the vaccine candidates currently in clinical trials. Over a decade of pioneering research at academic medical centers and the National Institutes of Health built the foundation for mRNA as a strategy for vaccine development, resulting in the production of the first version of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine merely one week after the novel coronavirus was sequenced in January 2020. Also, many AAMC member institutions have assisted with the recruitment of volunteers for clinical trials in both COVID-19 vaccines.
Even with the authorization of the first vaccine, we cannot expect an immediate stop to the spread of this illness. The first shipments of the vaccine will begin to protect our most vulnerable frontline health care workers and those living in assisted living facilities. It will be several months before the vaccines are widely available and the vaccination rates are high enough to curb the pandemic. Until then, COVID-19 will continue to stretch the nation’s health care capacity to its limits, and we must continue the public health measures we know are effective, such as wearing a face covering in public, avoiding large gatherings– especially indoors– social distancing, and proper hand washing.
Now more than ever, we must all do our part to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities against COVID-19.”