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COVID-19 vaccine updates

COVID-19 vaccine trials from Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech have recently been showing promising results. In the first two weeks of November, both American Big Pharma company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech and American biotech company Moderna have shown results of a possible COVID vaccine being 95 percent effective. 

On Nov. 9, Pfizer and BioNTech shared reports that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. One week later, Moderna shared reports that their coronavirus vaccine was found to be 95 percent effective. 

Both companies used an experimental approach to design their vaccines. According to the BBC, both the vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna use RNA: viral genetic code. What that means is that both vaccines contain part of the virus’s genetic code to get a response from the immune system. Injecting part of the genetic code of the virus into the body pushes the immune system to begin producing antibodies and T-cells to destroy infected cells.

 According to the BBC comparison of both vaccines, both use two injections, with Pfizer and BioNTech’s being 21 days apart, and Moderna’s being four weeks apart; Pfizer and BioNTech’s effectiveness is 90 percent (NPR has stated Pfizer and BioNTech’s effectiveness is at 95 percent),  while Moderna’s is 95 percent; and the vaccine made by Pfizer needs to be stored at -75C and is able to be stored in a fridge for five days, Moderna’s can be stored in -20C for up to six months. 

So far, it has been reported that symptoms from vaccines include “short lived fatigue, headache, and pain after the injection in some patients,” according to the BBC. 

Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech will still have to face approval from the FDA and outside experts before the distribution of a vaccine would occur. 

Pfizer and BioNTech have reached Phase Three of their vaccine trial study that has involved more than 43,000 volunteers. The company is preparing to ask the Food and Drug Administration for authorization of emergency use of the vaccine.

According to NPR: In a news release describing the trial, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech reported there were 170 cases of COVID-19 among the participants: 162 cases in the people who got the placebo compared with eight seen in the volunteers who got the vaccine. Ten cases of severe COVID-19 were seen in the trial: nine of them occurred in the placebo group and one was in the vaccinated group.”

Pfizer and BioNTech reported that the efficacy of the vaccine held up across gender, race, ethnicity and various ages. In people over 65, efficacy was found at 94 percent in the company’s findings of the vaccine. Next steps for Pfizer and its partner would be approval from the FDA before distribution of the vaccine can come underway. 

According to a Washington Post graphic, the next steps for both companies before the vaccine can be distributed include that the companies “will apply to federal regulators for authorization to provide the vaccines more broadly,” “FDA regulators [reviewing] the effectiveness, safety and manufacturing of the vaccines,” and “FDA advisory committee [voting] on whether or not to recommend that the agency greenlight for each vaccine.”  

If the vaccines pass those steps, then in December, the FDA could authorize one or both vaccines. Then, the CDC advisory committee will talk about prioritizing vaccines for high-risk groups. If the companies make it through all those steps then there are, according to the Washington Post, projections of “40 million doses, enough for 20 million people, by the end of the year.”  

Who will be prioritized to get the vaccine?

Prioritization of the vaccine has not been outlined yet, as both vaccines still need to be approved by the FDA and go through various stages and discussions from the FDA, CDC, and outside panels of experts. Most likely, according to the BBC and Washington Post, prioritization of the vaccines will depend on how old you are, and whether or not you work in a high-risk job (i.e. healthcare workers, first-responders, and other essential workers).  

The reports from the vaccine trials from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna are important next steps towards the finalization of a coronavirus vaccine, but there are a lot of steps before that finalization fully takes place.

About the Contributor
Genevieve Santilli, News Writer