Will COVID-19 Vaccines Be Effective and Safe?
You could fill an entire set of encyclopedias with information about the COVID-19 pandemic. It has come from health officials, media and politicians. Not to mention social media.
The pandemic has been the number one topic of conversation ever since the coronavirus began infecting people in the U.S. last January.
Frequently the news centers on statistics. As of this writing, more than 14.8 million Americans have tested positive. And more than 282,000 have died. It’s said that 60 to 70 percent of the population must become immune to halt the spread.
We also hear related stories. Including new guidelines from the CDC, business closings and self-testing at home. Lately there’s been a lot of talk about vaccines, and that’s what I want to address today. And give you a chance to voice your opinion.
To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate
Whether or not to receive a vaccination is a controversial issue. Many people refuse all vaccinations. Others get every vaccination recommended by their doctor.
Some who normally shy away from vaccinations say they’re considering this one. Mainly because they are high risk due to their age or an underlying condition. Some are thinking about getting it but want to wait to see if people have side effects.
The purpose of this communication is not to recommend getting or not getting a COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available.
It’s merely to present an update on the progress of the various vaccinations being developed and tested.
Operation Warp Speed
Normally the process to create an effective vaccine takes years. First, vaccines are tested on animals to see if they work and what the side effects are. This usually involves three to six months.
Next, Phase 1 clinical trials are conducted with a small number of humans. Phase 2 involves establishing the formulation and doses of the vaccine to determine its effectiveness. In Phase 3, the effectiveness needs to be proven in a larger group.
President Donald Trump has called the current approach Operation Warp Speed. Less than one year after the disease reached our shores, we have several coronavirus vaccines showing promise.
In a case where a pandemic is raging out of control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can give emergency authorization for a vaccine’s use. It might happen this month.
Emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine has been approved in the UK. Vaccines could be administered to some people as early as this week.
Let’s take a look at the leading vaccine candidates.
Oxford University/AstraZeneca Vaccine
Trials with the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine have been conducted. They show it stops up to 90 percent of people from developing COVID-19 symptoms. With no severe cases of coronavirus reported.
This vaccine is given in two doses (a half-dose followed by a full dose at least one month later). It needs only 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit storage temperatures. Trials with about 20,000 people are continuing.
Recently there has been public conflict between Oxford and AstraZeneca regarding how their data was obtained.
The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus from chimpanzees. It’s been modified so it won’t grow in humans. It’s significantly less expensive than its rivals.
This vaccine has shown an effective rate of 95 percent in clinical trials. So far, about 43,000 people have been given the vaccine, with no safety concerns reported. Forty-five percent of U.S. participants were ages 56-85.
It is given in two doses, three weeks apart. Protection is achieved 28 days after the first shot. The biggest drawback with this vaccine is that it needs to be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
The deep-freeze delivery chain involves a special box packed in dry ice and installed with GPS trackers. It can be stored for up to six months.
Once delivered, the vaccine can be stored for up to five days at about 35 to 46 degrees before being administered. This vaccine uses a tiny fragment of the virus’ genetic code. It starts making part of the virus in the body before the immune system attacks it.
The Moderna vaccine uses the same technology and approach as the Pfizer vaccine. It protects 94 percent of the people it’s been tested on. Two doses are required, four weeks apart.
About 30,000 people were involved in this trial. One-half were given the vaccine and the other half a placebo.
One advantage with this vaccine is it remains stable at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moderna officials are expected to soon join Pfizer/BioNtech in requesting FDA authorization for emergency usage.
Who Will Get It First?
If one or more vaccines prove effective and safe enough to gain public trust, then it’s all about distribution. Groups likely to receive it first are older Americans and healthcare workers.
The U.S. government has finalized deals to secure 100 million doses of both the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines. With options to acquire hundreds of millions more.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness vaccine manufacturers are claiming. He had said he would be satisfied if the effective rate were in the 70 to 75 percent range.
Others are more skeptical. They’re concerned about how quickly these vaccines were produced and tested. They believe not enough test subjects have been used. They feel manufacturers have not provided enough details about side effects.
What About You?
I’d love to know what you’re thinking about this subject. If you’d like to respond to one simple question, please record your answer (1, 2 or 3) in the comments section below. As always, let's be civil with our additional comments.
Will you get an approved COVID-19 vaccination?
1) Yes, as soon as it’s available.
2) No, never.
3) I’ll take a wait-and-see approach.