A shortage of monkeys in the United States Of America will delay efforts to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus, American researchers have warned.
Before drug companies call on human volunteers, monkeys are used in preclinical trials to test a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. But as scientists race to advance scores of possible vaccines and therapies, US research centers are saying that there are not enough monkeys to undergo trials.
“There is a shortage,” said Dr. Skip Bohm, associate director, and chief veterinary medical officer of the Tulane National Primate Research Center.
Like other aspects of society, the pandemic has underscored an already existing problem. Potential shortage of monkeys has been a concern for many years. Nonhuman primate research centers have been strained because of restrictions on imported monkeys from countries like China and India, and a lack of funding to support domestic breeding.
“We’ve always been in a state where we were always very close to the level of production to meeting the demand for research, and that has been the status for several years,” Bohm said. “When the COVID pandemic came about, that just pressed us even further.”
Researchers have insisted that the use of primates in experiments is essential for the development of medical science despite animal rights advocates condemning it,
The National Primate Research Centers try to use the smallest number of animals necessary for a valid scientific result, according to the centers’ website. Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to completely replace animal models with computer simulations or cell cultures.
“We all hope there’s a day we don’t have to use animals in research but right now … not all humans are going to submit for an examination where they get regular x-rays, regular CT analysis or blood analysis,” Bohm said.