December 27, 2020 / Source: The Bizz USA
By Elizabeth Insuasti; Edited by Haarika Kalahasti
Our best defense against the COVID-19 pandemic is developing an effective vaccine. Ever since the pandemic began, the federal government has been working effortlessly to have a vaccine available as soon as possible. To help distribute 300 million doses of a vaccine by early next year, Operation Warp Speed (OWS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have partnered up. Fortunately, there has been a significant breakthrough.
When scientists began seeking a vaccine in early 2020, they were diligent in not creating false hope. The fastest vaccine was developed four years ago for mumps in the 1960s. To hope for a COVID-19 vaccine even by the summer of 2021 seemed highly optimistic.
Fortunately, by the start of December, the developers of several vaccines had announced astounding results in large, speedy trials. On December 2, a vaccine made by Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech became the first fully-tested immunization to be approved by FDA for emergency use.
What's so different about the COVID-19 vaccine?
Previous vaccines have contained disabled forms of the virus itself, stimulating the body's immune defenses against infection by a live virus. But the first two COVID-19 vaccines used only a string of mRNA inside a lipid coat. Once the mRNA gets inside our cells, our bodies produce an essential protein that acts as the antigen that triggers an immune response. The vaccines made by Pfizer and BioNTech use mRNA that encodes the spike protein.
According to the CDC, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only vaccine the FDA has approved for emergency use and has a 95% efficiency rate. The vaccine is not available to anyone under 16 and requires two injections, each 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine, on the other hand, has only applied for FDA authorization. Its efficiency rate is 94.1% and requires two injections, each 28 days apart.
The vaccine distribution will be tricky due to limited supplies. According to the CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is pushing for the first vaccines to be reserved for health care workers, senior citizens, essential workers, and anyone else with a higher risk. As of right now, the distribution process is set to occur in three phases. Phase 1a, or the "Jumpstart Phase," will consist of only high-risk health workers and first responders. Phase 1b would then open up for people with higher risk and older adults living in overcrowded areas. Phase two will consist of school staff, essential workers at high-risk, people with underlying conditions that put them at a slightly higher risk, the homeless, the disabled, inmates, and the remaining senior citizens. Finally, phase three will distribute the vaccine to the remaining members of society, including young adults and essential workers not included in the previous phases.
All we can do now is hope for the best and hope that there is a light in this dark tunnel, COVID-19 pandemic. It brings us one step closer to creating the normal world we once knew and loved.
"Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html.
Get the Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines. December 17 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-vaccine/art-20484859.
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