The regulatory submission by the two prominent companies in race to get their respective vaccine candidate a go-ahead were accessed in a cyberattack, confirmed the European Medicines Agency (EMA). While this does not affect the timeline of the approvals to come in and respective dosage deliveries, it does pose a certain worry.
EMA has not said anything explicitly about the attack but BioNtech has expressed concern over the fact that their documents were indeed accessed. Both documents pertaining to the regulatory submission of Pfizer and BioNtech were accessed.
It is however known that EMA has made this news public in the interest of the world in order the data is not reused inappropriately. EMA is also assessing the viability of the Moderna vaccine, whose records apparently were not accessed in the cyber-attack.
A few months back, a similar cyber-attack disturbed the trials of the Oxford University vaccine candidate. It was later discovered that indeed, Kremlin might have instigated the attack indirectly through well-known Russian cyber attackers.
The Pfizer and BioNtech doses are both being considered the most effective in fighting the corona virus. Inoculations have already started in the UK. European Union has not been happy about Britain’s stand to go all out in the dissemination of a vaccine that had not received a full clearance from EMA anyway.
The cyber-attack comes the day before the agency is due to update the European Parliament on the progress of the vaccine assessments.
The only big worry now is that if the documents have been downloaded or copied in the attack, they could be extremely valuable to other countries and companies rushing to develop vaccines. At the moment ,Russia is struggling to make its Sputnik V vaccine to work for its country, while the vaccine has only been tried and tested on a few participants and its efficacy isn’t effective.
Elaborating on the risks of information being misused, Marc Rogers, founder of a volunteer group fighting Covid-related breaches, CTI-League made a media statement stating that, “When it comes to the data submitted to these kinds of regulatory bodies, we are talking confidential information about the vaccine and its mechanism of action, its efficiency, its risks and known possible side effects and any unique aspects such as handling guidelines.” Further, ‘it can also provide detailed information on other parties involved in the supply and distribution of the vaccine and potentially significantly increases the attack surface for the vaccine.’