New vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. What does this mean for us?

vaccine

Since the start of 2020, we have been dealing with a serious pandemic resulting from coronavirus. Finally, the Pfizer and BioNtech firms announced their vaccine candidate’s data on the 9th of November. The mRNA based vaccine uses a piece of genetic code of the virus to replicate the parts of the virus inside the body. When the immune system sees these parts of the virus, it recognises them and starts to attack. This is how we train our immune system to fight coronavirus or handle infections safely. Using vaccines with effective treatments might be our key to exit the pandemic.

Information About The Pfizer/BioNtech Firms’s Vaccine

These two companies were the first in sharing information about the final stages of testing. The phase 3 clinical trial began in July which was the final stage. If phase 3 succeeds then the drug is submitted to FDA for approval. After the approval, phase 4 begins and the drug is tested over again over 1.000 people. In Pfizer’s phase 3, recipients were divided into two groups. One group received the actual vaccine, whereas the other group received a placebo, meaning a vaccine with no effect. The vaccine was given three weeks apart with two doses. 

 Approximately, 43.000 people have been given the vaccine and no harmful effects have been raised. Furthermore, early data denotes that 90% of people were protected from developing covid symptoms because of the vaccine. Uğur Şahin, the co-founder of BioNtech, stated that the side effects of the vaccine are a couple days long headache and slight fever in some cases.

The Unanswered Questions.

Even though this was a news we were all dying to hear, we might need to take a step back and slow down our enthusiasm. There are many unanswered questions related to the vaccine. For instance, we don’t know which kind of cases the vaccine could protect. Were they mild cases of corona or moderate and severe cases? This gives us important information about the range of protection of the vaccine. Likewise, we don’t know the groups they didn’t study. 

Pfizer stated that nearly a third of participants have “racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds” but we can’t infer any information if there was stronger protection for specific age groups. Are people who have been previously infected going to be protected against reinfection, is another question that is unanswered as well.  

A crucial statement came from Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “The caution is that this would be the first mRNA vaccine to be used in humans, so it’s important to look carefully at the safety data.” Despite the ambiguities, the vaccine will work on some people and it will moderate the disease.

How Long Will Vaccine Last And Can We Have It?

If the trial continues, we might have an answer to this question after several months. We can also get an analysis of the immune responses of the people who were used  in the earlier trials of the vaccine.

The vaccine’s distribution will probably be related to the age since that is a major risk factor for Covid-19. We might expect the first round of vaccinations going to hospital staff as well. 

Pfizer believes it will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year, and about 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.  According to a study of Global Justice Now, over one billion doses have already been sold to rich governments. The buyers are the EU with 200 million doses, the UK with 40 million, and the US with 100 million aiming to buy another 500 million. The countries that have bought the vaccine represent only 14% of the population. 

Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now, stated “It is imperative that we end the vaccine nationalism and that sufficient supply is made available to all, on a fair basis, as a matter of urgency. That can be helped by supporting governments like South Africa and India who are trying to suspend intellectual property rules at the WTO [World Trade Organization] during this global emergency.”

Pfizer has the capacity to produce 82% of the 1.35 billion doses of the vaccine. To meet the demands, Pfizer and BioNtech will also be working with other big companies such AstraZeneca. Even though less fortunate countries can have the vaccine, logistics is still a problem. The vaccine must be maintained around -70 degrees Celsius. Large medical centers and urban centers are the most likely to have the resources necessary for ultra-cold storage. People without access to these facilities, such as those living in rural areas, nursing homes and developing nations, may have to wait for other vaccines working their way through the development pipeline.

Moderna’s Vaccine

Just when I was about to publish my article, some news hit the media. On the 16th of November, biotech company Moderna announced that their vaccine mRNA-1273 was nearly 95% effective in preventing covid. In its phase three trial, there were 30,000 participants. They were divided into two groups in terms of receiving the actual vaccine or giving a placebo just like Pfizer’s trial. In Moderna’s trial, 90 people who received the placebo later developed covid, whereas, the group who received the actual vaccine had only 5 people who developed covid.The vaccine was given 28 days apart and in two doses.

In their press release, Moderna stated that there weren’t any safety issues related to the vaccine. Severe side effects were fatigue,muscle pain, headache, and achiness which happened to 1 in 10 of the patients and was only for a short amount of time. After having more safety data, the company is planning to apply to the FDA for the authorization.

Moderna expects to have 20 million doses for the US in the upcoming weeks. They are aiming to have one billion doses available for all around the world as well in the next year after getting approvals.

The Difference Between Two Vaccines

One of the most important differences between two vaccines is Moderna’s can be stored at -20 degrees Celsius. This means that it can be stored in a freezer that most doctors’ offices have. Likewise, this decreases the problems related to logistics that most countries have. Another difference is Moderna’s vaccine can be kept for 30 days in the refrigerator which passes Pfizer’s by 25 days. Moderna also announced something very crucial in their data: the severe cases. They stated that 11 cases were detected, all of them in the placebo group.

More articles related to Covid-19 :

You can support us by buying us a coffee,
Every little bit will go towards creating new and exciting content just for you!

About the author

Ful Belin Korukoğlu

Belin is an undergraduate Molecular Biology and Genetics student whose scientific journey started with an article that was about genetic engineering she once read in middle school. She desires to have the same impact on someone, someday.

2comments

Leave a comment: