Animal research

How COVID-19 demonstrated animal research on vaccines isn’t necessary

As an ethical vegan, I often research products before buying them to make sure they don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients and haven’t been tested on animals. But what about COVID-19 vaccines?

Vaccines made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna do not contain any ingredients of animal origin. It is possible that future COVID-19 vaccines will contain animal-derived ingredients, and in that case I would choose an animal-free option for ethical reasons, but I would be sure to talk to my doctor first. .

Animal experimentation is more complicated. While scientific paradigms are changing, we still live in a world in which companies that make drugs, including vaccines, are legally required by government agencies to perform certain tests on animals before they can market their products to the world. public. Veganism is a philosophy that seeks to exclude all forms of animal exploitation – wherever possible and practicable. In other words, when choosing between a kind option and a cruel option, people who care about animals should choose the kind option. But in the case of drugs – including COVID-19 vaccines – governments require that they be tested on animals.

Moreover, refusing to take a vaccine for ethical reasons will not help animals that have already been used in tests, but could lead to a deterioration of our health – and our ability to defend animals in the future. What is needed is a change in the law so that animals no longer have to undergo regulatory testing.

In fact, we have witnessed this in real time. With emergency approvals from regulatory agencies, companies quickly implemented human trials, which overlapped with animal experiments rather than being conducted sequentially. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the U.S. equivalent of Health Canada) realized that human clinical trials could, in fact, begin safely without years of unnecessary — and often misleading — animal testing. .

Traditionally, drug development has relied heavily on animal research. It takes more than 10 years to bring a drug to market, and it costs an average of $2 billion per drug. With the lingering threat of the pandemic, there was no time to waste.

Whether monkeys or mice, they are profoundly different from us, physiologically, anatomically, metabolically, etc. They are not miniature humans. How a drug behaves in a mouse is simply not a reliable predictor of how it will behave in a human. The flip side is also deeply troubling: What new drugs that might have helped humans were rejected because they didn’t work in animals?

The accelerated development of the COVID-19 vaccine has exposed animal research for what it is: scientifically outdated and useless.

As this pandemic has turned our world upside down and produced immeasurable suffering in all facets of our lives and society, one good thing to emerge is that scientists have had the opportunity to reinvent the way biomedical research is conducted. . Significant advances in the fight against COVID-19 are being made through epidemiological studies and in vitro work using human cells, through integrative modeling and molecular simulations to assess the different properties of the virus, and through three-dimensional printed human tissues, cell-based tests and organs on a chip. We are getting closer than ever to a future where no animal will have to suffer as a “test subject”.

So when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, I’m all for it and will get it when it’s eligible.

Kati Bertrand, M.Sc. Eng., Animal Breeding and Genetics, is a Campaign Coordinator in PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department and lives in Guelph.