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Animal research advocacy group counters MEPs’ Covid-19 claims

Vaccine without animal testing would ‘greatly increase risk’ to humans, group says

The European Animal Research Association, which advocates for the humane use of animals in research, has written to EU leaders stressing how important such work is to tackling Covid-19.

Eara executive director Kirk Leech wrote to the EU R&D and health commissioners Mariya Gabriel and Stella Kyriakides, as well as European Medicines Agency director Guido Rasi, on 26 May in response to a letter he said they were sent by MEPs and which he said made unscientific claims that research using animals is ineffective.

“Labelling current research done using animals as ineffective, based on tradition, and unpragmatic, as suggested in the letter, is unscientific, counter-productive in the midst of one of the greatest health challenges the world has ever faced, and undermines the integrity of the highly qualified and dedicated researchers working tirelessly under difficult circumstances to combat this pandemic,” Leech said.

He said claims that the use of animals to develop Covid-19 vaccines would slow the process down were based on “a fundamental lack of understanding of the laws and regulations in Europe and elsewhere, which mandate studies with animals before testing in human beings, but only allow tests with animals to the extent that non-animal alternatives do not yet exist”.

Developing a Covid-19 vaccine without animal testing would greatly increase the risks associated with delivering the vaccine to humans, he said, citing historical cases in which animal testing saved human lives, such as in developing a vaccine for polio. Leech said the coronavirus pandemic “should not be treated as a special case to bypass the necessary and legally mandated steps to ensure safety and efficacy, including animal trials”.

EARA has published an interactive world map showing 206 Covid-19 research projects using animals, 103 of which are based in Europe. Leech said EARA would be happy to supply further information on how animals are being used in Covid-19 research.