COVID-19 is surging through the US and vaccines are starting to become available to the general public.
It is important to understand the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic before discussing the new vaccines. The CDC reported on January 11, 2021 there are just under 23 million COVID-19 cases in the US since January 21,2020. The total deaths have grown to 383,351. The pandemic is still very much a health risk to the majority of people living in the US. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines attempt to return our lives to normalcy.
Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines are both mRNA vaccines that were approved by the FDA through emergency use authorization. mRNA is a new type of vaccine never before used. The reason COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines is because they are much faster to produce. Traditional vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, use deactivated or weakened versions of the virus to boost your immune system’s response to that particular virus. This traditional method takes longer to manufacture and the FDA believes timely availability of vaccines to the public is very important. mRNA vaccines train your immune system to respond to the spike proteins surrounding the virus. mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus so you cannot contract COVID-19 from getting a vaccine.
Receiving either one of the available COVID-19 vaccines is simple. Find your vaccination center, receive the vaccine intramuscularly, and then wait 15-30 minutes to be observed for allergic reactions. So far, over 20 cases of severe allergic reactions (about 1 in a million) have been observed and have typically occurred in people with a history of severe allergic reactions. Both vaccines require two shots. Pfizer’s second dose should be administered three weeks after the first dose, and Moderna’s second dose should be administered four weeks after the first dose. Wait two weeks after your second dose for the vaccine to be considered effective. Both vaccines have an efficacy rate of approximately 95%. After receiving the vaccine, you should still wash your hands, social distance, and wear a mask. Even though you have increase immune response and are less likely to experience symptoms, you can still be infected by COVID-19 and transmit the virus.
Congress has directed almost $10 billion to support research, manufacturing, and distribution through Operation Warp Speed and the CARES Act. This means that either COVID-19 vaccine should be free to all those living in the US. With exception of a small administration fee that may be billed to your healthcare provider. If you are not part of a healthcare plan, the CARES Act covers the administration fee for you.
Viruses constantly change through mutation, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear. Other times, new variants emerge and persist. Currently there are two known new mutation of COVID-19. The South Africa Variant B.1.351 and the UK variant B.1.1.7. The UK variant has made its way to the US and is known to be a more transmittable virus. Both variants have different spike proteins on the virus shell. Pfizer and Moderna both believe their vaccines will be just as effect against the new variants of coronavirus despite the difference in spike proteins.
Coronavirus is the most widespread it has ever been. FDA EUA vaccines utilize new mRNA vaccine technology to help defend those who are at the highest risk. Congress helped expedite the response with $10 billions of funding and now new variants of coronavirus enter the US. The pandemic status is constantly changing but we must remember the best ways to stay safe. Wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands often, and use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands.