Incoming COVID Vaccine Deems Hopeful


Claire Borgelt

As COVID-19 rates rise across the country, many Americans have looked towards the future, searching for the path that leads to normalcy. For most, the first proposed step is the development of a vaccine. 

Six candidate vaccines are currently being developed, supported by more than $10 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars (source: USA Today). Pfizer and BioNTech, a German biotechnology company, have developed one such candidate vaccine, called BNT162b2. They report that it is 95% effective in protecting against symptomatic COVID-19. Moderna’s vaccine, mRNA-1273, was developed in collaboration with the U.S government. Alongside Oxford University, AstraZeneca produced AZD1222. When they released trial data from the U.K. and Brazil, the vaccine was reported to be 90% effective if specific procedures for treatment were followed. 

To conduct trials, developers work with a group of 30,000 volunteers. Half are given the vaccine, while half are given a placebo. At this point, all three of the most promising vaccines require two dosages to become effective. The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is administered 21 days after the first, while Moderna’s comes 28 days later and AstraZeneca’s comes after one month. One week after they’ve received their second dose, the researchers monitor participants to see if they become infected with COVID-19. 

Most of the U.S. backed vaccine endeavors, such as AstraZeneca’s AZD1222, are vector vaccines. This means that they contain a weakened version of a virus (not one that causes COVID-19) with genetic material from the COVID-19 virus inserted. These genetically altered viruses are called viral vectors, and once they enter human cells, their genetic material allows the cells to create a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Then, the cells copy the protein and use it to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes in order to fight off the virus in the future (Source:  

Both the Moderna/Oxford vaccine and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are mRNA vaccines. They make use of material from the COVID-19 virus that enables our cells to make harmless protein which is unique to the virus. Once cells copy this protein, they destroy the genetic material from the virus. Just like the vector vaccine process, T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes are built to defend against the virus if the individual is infected later. (Source: 

As of December 4th, there is still no FDA authorized vaccine for COVID-19. However, production and distribution plans are being finalized. Operation Warp Speed, the White-House led initiative to efficiently develop and provide access to vaccines, states that their goal is to produce and deliver over 300 million doses with the initial doses available in January, 2021 (Source: U.S Department of Health and Human Services).

While scientists and researchers work to find treatments, the public is tasked with assessing their own readiness to receive the vaccine. As more information comes out about the development process, Americans have become more comfortable with the idea of being vaccinated. As of December 3rd, 60% of those surveyed say that they would definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine if one were available today. This number is up from 51% as of September. 39% say that they would “probably not” get the vaccine, though 18% (about half of this group) say that they may change their mind once more information becomes readily available. 21% of those that say they will not get the vaccine state that further information would not change their mind. (Source: Pew Research Center). 

Debates about who should be the first to receive the vaccine are ongoing. A panel of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted on December 2nd to recommend that healthcare workers whose risk of contracting COVID-19 are high, along with residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, be the first Americans to have access to the vaccine. If the CDC director, Robert R. Redfield, approves this recommendation, it will be shared with states who are preparing for vaccine shipments as early as mid-December given that the FDA approves applications for emergency vaccine use by Pfizer. Last week, the CDC hinted that essential workers would be next in line, since those whose profession does not allow them to work from home, such as those in law enforcement, manufacturing, education, transportation, food and agriculture, and emergency response are at increased risk. (Source: The New York Times). 

Though new developments have made a future beyond the pandemic seem closer than ever, it is still incredibly vital to take precautions in the meantime. The CDC still recommends wearing masks in public places, washing hands, and social distancing.