With so much going on around the world lately, one of which is hacking situations which has plagued medical research and agencies in charge of the COVID-19 as vaccine development becomes more realistic than earlier thought.
One of such is the recent hacking of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) which says its being hit hard by a cyber-attack and documents that related to the coronavirus vaccine had been accessed.
According to BioNTech which partnered with American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer stated that its regulatory submission was accessed during the attack and EMA is said to be working on approval of two COVID-19 vaccines which is expected to conclude in a matter of weeks.
BioNTech however doesn’t expect the attack to have any impact on the aforementioned timeline and the EMA has failed to provide any details on the nature of the cyber attack in the brief statement it made on its website but said that a full-blown investigation is on to look into the matter.
A spokesperson for the agency said it was still “functional”. But BioNTech, in a statement published on its website, said it had been told its documents had been accessed.
“Today, we were informed… that the agency has been subject to a cyber-attack and that some documents relating to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, which has been stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed,” it said.
“EMA has assured us that the cyber-attack will have no impact on the timeline for its review,” it added.
It said it had made the details of the hack public “given the critical public health considerations and the importance of transparency”.
The company also stated that it was unaware of any personal data of participants in its medical studies being compromised.
In case you don’t know, the EMA is a panel setup to approve medicines all across Europe (countries under the European Union).
The agency was suppose to decide on whether to authorize the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines which is already being rolled out in the UK. Another company to have been successful with the discovery of the coronavirus vaccine is Moderna which is said to be safe for use in EU countries.
It is not clear if the Moderna documents have also been accessed.
The cyber-attack is the latest in a string of attacks and warnings about hacking threats against vaccine-makers and public health bodies.
The use of cyber-attacks against bodies involved in the vaccine rollout has been a feature of recent months.
Russia had being the main suspect in majority of these cyber attacks on COVID-19 research and vaccine development.
One of such attacks happened in India back in October when a pharmaceutical company based in the second most populous country on earth got attacked.
The cyber-attack comes the day before the agency is due to update the European Parliament on the progress of the vaccine assessments.
The Euro-MPs on the Public Health Committee are said to debate the agency’s executive director on how close the most advanced vaccines are to getting authorized on Thursday.
Meanwhile the UK’s National Cyber Security Center stated that there is no indication that cyber attacks would ever slow the rollout of vaccines in the country which already began on Tuesday.
“We are working with international partners to understand the impact of this incident affecting the EU’s medicine regulator, but there is currently no evidence to suggest that the UK’s medicine regulator has been affected,” it said.