By Gabriella Garcia
Last week, scientists made a breakthrough in developing a COVID-19 vaccine and are working hard to have it released by the end of 2020.
According to CNN, Pfizer has met requirements to prepare filing for an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration. Clinical trial data has shown that the vaccine is to be more than 90 percent effective.
Also in the running towards developing a vaccine is the pharmaceutical company Moderna. Moderna hopes to apply for the same authorization this month as their vaccine shows to be 94 percent effective.
Both vaccines’ technologies differ greatly from what the public has previously seen as they use mRNA, as opposed to viral antigen blueprints, to provide the body with immunity against the virus once it is in contact with it. Since this approach is so new, many worry the FDA may not approve it.
CNN’s sources claim the FDA has scheduled a meeting with a group of outside experts in early December to discuss the vaccines, coinciding with reports from Doctor Anthony Fauci — the nation’s lead infectious disease doctor — who claims citizens can expect to be vaccinated in late December.
Although the CDC is not directly participating in the vaccine’s development, it “has been working closely with health departments and partners” during the process and will ultimately have the final say in how the vaccine will be distributed (via the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendations). Essential workers, health care professionals and those especially vulnerable to the virus are expected to be among the first groups to receive the vaccine.
Pfizer’s vaccine is receiving the most attention at the moment due to its maintenance and administering requirements.
Unlike Moderna’s vaccine, which can be stored at negative 20 degrees Celsius, Pfizer’s vaccine must be held at negative 70 degrees Celsius, which is far below the temperature of freezers found at most doctors’ offices and pharmacies. However, NPR reports that Pfizer seeks to combat these challenges by providing personal packaging for the vaccine, allowing it to be stored for weeks without specialized freezers.
Additionally, the vaccine has been reported to produce significantly stronger side effects that humans may have grown accustomed to with our regular flu shots. Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses, given weeks apart, to be effective and could cause flu-like side effect symptoms, including sore arms, muscle aches and fever that could last days. Moreover, despite being 90 percent effective, one in ten recipients may still be vulnerable.
During a virtual health conference in the beginning of the month, Dr. Fauci claimed the nation has “essentially put [the virus] to rest” but that “putting it to rest doesn’t mean eradicating [the virus],” although he believes “the vaccines are going to turn that around.”
The days of social distancing and stay-at-home orders may not be completely gone as soon as the vaccine is released, however, Dr. Fauci is hopeful it will be the first step in returning to normalcy.
Gabriella Garcia studies Political Science at UC Davis, minoring in professional writing. She is passionate about social justice issues and hopes to pursue a career as a human rights lawyer.