CSL CEO Paul Perreault: Don't Rush the COVID-19 Vaccine

Joining scientists and medical experts, Perreault urges rigor, precision and the necessary time to ensure vaccine safety.

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CSL Limited CEO Paul Perreault recently added his voice to the discussion about how quickly a vaccine for COVID-19 can be developed.

“Everybody wants to get everybody to speed up and try to get rid of red tape,” Perreault told the Financial Times. “But a reason that some of that tape is there is for safety purposes, when you know you're going to have to be giving billions of doses of this vaccine, you want to make sure you're doing the right thing.”

CSL includes CSL Behring, a global plasma-based medicines business, and Seqirus, a world-leading influenza vaccines business. It has launched five projects aimed at COVID-19, including a vaccine candidate pioneered by researchers at The University of Queensland. CSL Behring is also a founding member of the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, a group of the world’s leading plasma companies that are working together on a “hyperimmune” product as a potential treatment.

Paul Perreault
CSL Limited CEO Paul Perreault

In discussing the pace of vaccine progress, Perreault raised the issue of how some vaccines have caused antibody dependent enhancement (ADE). With ADE, a vaccinated person can experience a worse case of the illness instead of being immune from it – something that happened with a vaccine for dengue fever, Perreault said. This reality highlights the need for rigorous study and review before distributing a vaccine to people around the world, he said.

The same issue was raised in The Scientific American and by Dr. Kate Sullivan, chief of allergy and immunology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and advisor to the Immune Deficiency Foundation.

From The Scientific American: “The US alone plans to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people with the first successful candidate. One serious adverse event per thousand of a vaccine given to 100 million people means harm to 100,000 otherwise healthy people,” wrote William Haseltine, Ph.D., former Harvard Medical School professor and founder of the university's cancer and HIV/AIDS research departments. 

Sullivan explained ADE in a recent YouTube video for patients about how antibodies work and on why a vaccine will take time. In antibody dependent enhancement, the antibodies act as a sponge and pull more virus into the cells instead of blocking entry, Sullivan said.

“So it doesn’t happen with every vaccine clearly and it doesn’t happen in every person who gets the vaccine” but nonetheless must be investigated fully before distributing, she said.

In a recent interview on Facebook Live, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,  gave firm assurances that COVID-19 vaccine candidates will be rigorously studied with no shortcuts allowed.

"I want to assure everybody — because you and I are in all these conversations, often many times a day and late into the night — that there will be no compromising on the principles of safety and efficacy," he told Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. "Whatever we come up with in a few months is going to be just as rigorously tested as any vaccine ever has been."