Promising vaccine trials bring hope to coronavirus-weary world

Pharmaceutical companies around the world are scrambling to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. (kardiniahealth.com)

On December 1, 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) became the first western country to give emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine. Officials from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have announced that they will start distributing 800,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to 50 UK hospitals from next week. The first vaccines will be administered to some of the most vulnerable citizens – residents of nursing homes, health workers and the elderly.

“Today’s Emergency Use Authorization in the UK marks a historical time of the fight against COVID-19. This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first said science would win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a Evaluation and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK,” Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer, said in a press release.

The BNT162b2 vaccine, a collaboration between Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, is one of two main inoculations that have shown vaccine efficacy of over 90% – the reduction of COVID-19 implications in injected patients – in clinical trials. The second, labeled mRNA-1273, is developed by the American biotechnology company Moderna Therapeutics.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both use mRNA to fight the virus. (Credit: Pfizer)

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

the revolutionary approach has several advantages. Since it does not use live virus, there is little danger that the inoculated person will be 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 how well they will perform in various age groups and ethnicities remain unanswered. Additionally, at an expected price of between $15 and $25 per dose, the vaccinations will be expensive to deploy, especially since each person needs two shots to achieve full immunity.

Additionally, Pfizer’s BNT162b2 should be stored at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celsius) and, once thawed, lasts only five days in regular refrigerators. This means that countries wishing to use the vaccine will first have to build cold stores. Moderna’s mRNA-1273 will be slightly easier to deploy as 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 one month after thawing.

Coronavirus vaccines are very different from traditional vaccines (Vanderbilt University/CC-SA-By 4.0

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

With the greatest minds in the world working together, there is no doubt that the coronavirus will be eradicated. However, given the extent of its reach, this will take time. Until then, we must all continue to take the precautions recommended by medical experts.

Stay safe and healthy

We are all in there!

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

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