Science

Vaccines: What’s Next?

Questions that are answered in this summary:

  1. Intro
  2. What are the different COVID vaccines that are in use?
  3. How does the vaccine work and is it safe?
  4. How is life going to work after the vaccine?

Intro

On December 21, 2019, several cases involving viral pneumonia were discovered in Wuhan, China (later identified as novel coronavirus).  A month later on January 21, 2020, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the United States, and the rest is history.

COVID-19 has altered every aspect of life far greater than anyone could have ever imagined. It’s hard to remember how life was before the virus. Specifically, in the United States, you have probably heard the numbers: “300,000 deaths” and “15 million cases” a number of times, as coronavirus is breaking records daily in categories that we don’t want to be broken. Coronavirus seems to be an unstoppable force rampaging through our life and our loved ones, however, with the recent news of a vaccine, a light may be at the end of the tunnel.

man in red jacket standing beside green metal fence during daytime
Masks have become common during the coronavirus pandemic, signifying one of many changes people have had to accommodate to.

What are the different COVID-19 vaccines that are in use?

Two names you may have heard come up in the news are Pfizer and Moderna. These two companies are dominating the coronavirus vaccine industry. they have administered over 4.4 million COVID-19 vaccinations, and they are on track to produce 70 million more before the end of 2020. This is great news, but one question has to be asked: how do these vaccines work, and are they safe?

Moderna

Effectiveness: The Moderna vaccine is around 94% effective. It is also very effective against severe cases of COVID-19.

Type of Vaccine: The Moderna vaccine uses messenger-RNA technology. This uses genetic info to create proteins to fight off the virus.

person holding white and black labeled bottle

Doses: The Modera vaccine requires two doses which must be administered two weeks apart.

Trial Size: The Moderna vaccine trials included around thirty thousand volunteers.

Amount administered: 20 million people have been given the Moderna vaccine.

Projections: Moderna is targeting to give 500 million to 1 billion doses each year.

Storage Info: The Moderna vaccine has to be stored at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius for 30 days before it can be administered.

Side Effects: Pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea, and vomiting, and fever [FDA]

Subject Info: Only should be administered to people 18 and older.

Pfizer

Effectiveness: The Pfizer vaccine is around 95% effective. 

Type of Vaccine: The Pfizer vaccine uses messenger-RNA technology. This uses genetic info to create proteins to fight off the virus.

Doses: The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses which must be administered two weeks apart.

Trial Size: The Pfizer vaccine trials included around 44 thousand volunteers.

Amount administered: By the end of 2020, 25 million people will have been given the Pfizer vaccine.

Projections: Pfizer is targeting to give around 1.3 billion doses each year.

Storage Info: The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at a temperature between -80 and -60 degrees Celsius. The Pfizer vaccine will be stored in a refrigeration unit, which contains dry ice. Similar to the Moderna vaccine, it must be stored for 30 days before being administered.

Side Effects: Chills, headaches, tiredness, swelling, redness, pain at the injection site. [CDC]

Subject Info: Only should be administered to people 16 years and older.

How do these vaccines actually work, and are they safe?

red and white heart shaped ornament
Red and white blood cells in the body system.

When our bodies are fighting COVID-19 without a vaccine, they use white blood cells, our germ-fighting cells, and T-lymphocytes, memory cells, to fight off the virus. The white blood cells go into battle with the virus, and the memory cells copy the virus. If someone was to get the virus again, the memory cells can detect the virus faster and send out white blood cells and antibodies to fight the virus with more ease. Unfortunately, people with high-risk conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and other immuno-respiratory diseases, do not have a strong enough immune system to fight off this disease, which is why this virus is so deadly.

With a COVID vaccine, the body does not need to get the virus to be able to fight it off in the future. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines. This means they create a harmless protein that contains genetic material from the COVID-19 virus. The body now gets accustomed to this protein, and if it enters the body’s system the immune system can detect it very easily and fight it off quickly.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are very safe. This quote from the Mayo Clinic sums it up the best, “ It’s important to recognize that getting the vaccine is not just about survival from COVID-19. It’s about preventing spread of the virus to others and preventing infection that can lead to long-term negative health effects. While no vaccine is 100% effective, they are far better than not getting a vaccine. The benefits certainly outweigh the risks in healthy people” [Mayo Clinic].

How is life going to work after the vaccine?

Although the vaccine protects you from the coronavirus, it doesn’t mean that the lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, and masks will magically disappear. With the vaccine, in most cases, the virus will have no effect on you, however, you can still contract the virus and spread it to others who haven’t received the virus yet. It is still important to wear masks, social distance, and quarantine when necessary.

The vaccine is expected to be given to frontline workers, such as nurses, doctors, and other medical staff. Then, it will be given to the older population and the population with high-risk conditions. At this point, lockdown and social distancing conditions will most likely lessen and become less strict, as the rest of the population will gradually receive the vaccine. In the future, coronavirus will not disappear, but it will become a common virus, and it will require you to receive the coronavirus vaccine ever so often like the flu vaccine. Although COVID-19 will always remain in our lives, we are getting closer and closer to moving on.

TL;DR

  • COVID-19 has ravaged our lives, however, the news about a COVID-19 vaccine has brought hope to many.
  • An analysis of the two coronavirus vaccines that are approved in the United States; Moderna and Pfizer
  • These vaccines are safe to use and are backed up by credible medical experts and corporations.
  • Taking the vaccine doesn’t mean you can stop wearing masks or social distance.

Sources

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-vaccine-tracker-global-distribution

https://www.who.int/news/item/27-04-2020-who-timeline—covid-19

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/how-they-work.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html

https://www.biopharmadive.com/news/coronavirus-vaccine-pipeline-types/579122/

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