A vaccine for COVID-19 is just around the corner

From Issue 5

A vaccine for COVID-19 might be ready by the end of the year. In the last few weeks, two vaccines, one by a collaboration between Pfizer and BioNTech and the other by Moderna, have been submitted for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization.

The infamous coronavirus that Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna are trying to stop. Graphic by Alex Roberson

On March 17, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they would collaborate on producing a coronavirus vaccine and on November 20, only 248 days later, they submitted their coronavirus vaccine candidate. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, and BioNTech, a biotechnology company, began their collaborative work in order to produce a vaccine as soon as possible. The result is a vaccine named BNT162b2 that is 95% effective in preventing infections of the virus. For comparison, the flu vaccine ranges from 40% to 60% effective and vaccines for eradicated viruses, like smallpox and measles are 95% and 97% effective, respectively. 

On November 30, biotechnology company Moderna submitted their vaccination. Moderna’s vaccine, mRNA-1273, is 94.1% effective at preventing infections and 100% effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. 

Both vaccines are similar. Both vaccines use messenger RNA to draw out the body’s immune response. They also both require two shots, a few weeks apart. Similar to the flu vaccine, both vaccines could cause side effects such as a short fever or body aches, but should prevent the actual COVID-19. Finally, both vaccines require that they be stored in cold temperatures, Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine at -94 degrees Fahrenheit and Moderna’s at -4 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, a freezer is usually at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The FDA’s advisory committee is expected to meet on December 10 for Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine and on December 17 for Moderna’s to decide whether the vaccines will be approved for use. If approved, the vaccines will be distributed to the 50 states, awaiting the CDC’s word on who will be vaccinated. It is predicted that healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be vaccinated first. If all goes well, vaccinating people will begin before the end of the year, a promising start to 2021.