Promising Vaccine Trials Bring Hope To Coronavirus-Weary World

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Pharmaceutical companies worldwide are scrambling to develop a COVID-19 vaccine (Credit: kardiniahealth.com)

On December 1, 2020, the United Kingdom (U.K.) became the first western country to give emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) officials announced they would begin distributing 800,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to 50 British hospitals as early as next week. The initial vaccines will be administered to some of the nation's most vulnerable citizens — nursing home residents, health workers, and the elderly.

“Today’s emergency use authorization in the U.K. marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. This authorization is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the U.K.,” Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said in a press release.

The BNT162b2 vaccine, a collaboration between Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech, is among the two leading inoculations that have shown an over 90 percent vaccine efficacy — the reduction in COVID-19 incidences in injected patients — in clinical trials. The second, labeled mRNA-1273, is being developed by American biotechnology company Moderna Therapeutics.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA to battle the virus (Credit: Pfizer)

The vaccines are made using a synthetic messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, that contains information about the coronavirus’s signature spike protein. When injected into the body, it provides the immune system a preview of what the threat looks like and allows it to prepare the antibodies needed to neutralize the virus if, or when, a person gets infected. This is different from traditional vaccines, which train the immune system by injecting weakened viruses into the body that cannot reproduce (or replicate) themselves very effectively.

The groundbreaking approach has several advantages. Since it does not use a live virus, there is little danger of the inoculated person being infected with the coronavirus. mRNA vaccines are also easier and faster to mass-produce than traditional options.

However, questions about how long the vaccines will provide protection and their performance across various age groups and ethnicities are yet to be answered. Also, at an expected price of between $15 to $25 per dose, the immunizations will be expensive to deploy, especially since each person needs two shots to obtain full immunity.

Additionally, Pfizer's BNT162b2 must be stored at a temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius), and, once thawed, lasts just five days in regular refrigerators. This means that the countries wishing to use the vaccination will first have to build cold storage facilities. Moderna's mRNA-1273 will be slightly easier to deploy since it can be stored in a regular medical freezer for up to six months. It also remains stable in a standard refrigerator for up to a month after thawing.

The coronavirus vaccines are very different from traditional vaccines (Credit: Vanderbilt University/CC-SA-By 4.0

Pfizer and Moderna are not the only ones scrambling to find a way to stop the spread of this deadly virus that has brought the world to a halt. Britain's AstraZeneca is also developing a vaccine that looks extremely promising. The company maintains that the vaccine will be stable for up to six months in regular refrigerators and, more importantly, will cost between just $3 to $5 a dose.

With the world's greatest minds working together, there is little doubt that the coronavirus will be eradicated. However, given the extent of its reach, it will take some time. Until then, we must all continue to take the precautions recommended by medical experts.

Stay safe and healthy

We are all in this together!

Resources: Vox.com, Observer.com, NPR.org, thehour.com, NBCnews.com

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319 Comments
  • unicorn87
    unicorn87Sunday, April 4, 2021 at 10:06 am
    My parents, my two grandmas, my grandpa, and some of my family friends are already vaccinated. This is so amazing. I'm 8 years old so I can't get the vaccine but they are testing it out on kids. YAY!
    • alexmorgan12
      alexmorgan12Friday, April 2, 2021 at 4:31 pm
      Well I am 10 so Can't get it but my mom did 😊😊
      • katiebang72
        katiebang72Friday, March 5, 2021 at 4:10 am
        Hi all I ma in 6th grade and I am doo excited bc this vaccine is doing stuff YAY!! All the people in my family over 40 have had it
        • gracie8816
          gracie8816Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 7:13 pm
          Wow that was a lot of information my friends mom got the vaccine
          • nacelanu-158575728276
            nacelanu-158575728276Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 7:49 am
            This is not helping just because you get the vaccine doesn´t mean you don´t have to wear your mask and also you can still get covid-19 .
            • katiebang72
              katiebang72Friday, March 5, 2021 at 4:07 am
              Well you cant get the corona virus for 1 year guarenteed after getting the vaccine I think,I could be wrong though
            • dinobasketball7
              dinobasketball7Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 8:36 am
              Yay!
              • fortnitespeed45
                fortnitespeed45Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 9:17 am
                I hate covid - 19 but I really want vaccine!!!!!!!!!!
                • meep124
                  meep124Monday, February 8, 2021 at 1:48 pm
                  I’m going to school too! 🏫
                  • unicorn87
                    unicorn87Monday, February 8, 2021 at 10:57 am
                    I want the vaccine!!!!
                    • teojack21
                      teojack21Friday, February 5, 2021 at 11:31 am
                      My friends mom is getting it
                      • kath648
                        kath648Monday, February 8, 2021 at 7:03 am
                        yeah same