An FDA approved vaccine is on the horizon

A COVID-19 vaccine has been in the works at companies such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna for many months now, and to many people, a vaccine is viewed as the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel.

WHS junior Maggie Cassidy said, “It is definitely promising knowing people are working hard towards a vaccine and I think it makes me feel a lot safer knowing one is on the way.”

Currently, there are five pharmaceutical companies that are conducting or are planning to conduct phase three clinical trials. Phase three trials are the last phase of human trials and contain the largest number of people.

In a normal world, one without the coronavirus, companies would need to go through more traditional testing, research and trials before their vaccines could be considered for approval by the FDA. Though testing and clinical trials are still necessary, companies now have the option of applying for an Emergency Use Authorization, which could speed up vaccine approval. Congress gave the FDA the authority to issue EUAs after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and ever since they have been used to accelerate approval of treatments and vaccines in times of crisis. 

This accelerated process has led some WHS students to feel uneasy about the vaccine. “I do not think I will get the vaccine once it becomes available because we do not know the long-term effects yet,” said WHS senior Hailey Stogner.

There is also the question of whether the vaccine will be mandated by the government. It is unlikely that the federal government will mandate that everyone get the vaccine, but there is precedent for local governments requiring residents to receive a vaccine, especially for children attending public schools.  

Senior Justin Shen said, “I think that everyone should be required to get the covid vaccine, assuming there are no medical or financial issues or obstacles that come with it.”

For those who will be getting the vaccine, the three leading vaccines right now are from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. 

Pfizer, whose vaccine is about 95 percent effective, is waiting for their EUA to be approved. This vaccine needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit in specialized containers which could make a distribution to less populated areas more difficult. Currently, the vaccine would be given in two doses with 28 days between injections. 

The Moderna vaccine, which reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection by about 94.5 percent, is slightly behind the Pfizer vaccine in development but has submitted their EUA. This vaccine is also administered in two doses.  

AstraZeneca is another company that is far along in the vaccine development process. Though their vaccine is currently standing around 70 percent efficacy, there was a mistake in administering the injections to some of the clinical trial patients, which resulted in them getting half of one of their two doses. Although there has not been much research and analysis regarding the half-dose technique, it seems that this method is actually 90 percent effective, and the company plans on researching this further.

While these three vaccines are promising, there are many other factors that go into vaccinating people against COVID-19. In a press conference on Nov. 23, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said, “Should Pfizer receive their emergency use authorization in a timely manner, we would then expect to receive our first 130,000 doses of its vaccine by as early as the third week in December, with another 130,000 doses following closely behind the next week.” Murphy stated that healthcare workers are going to be at the front of the line to get these vaccines. 

On a national level, advisors on vaccines at the CDC voted 13-1 on Tuesday to recommend that healthcare workers and the residents of long-term care facilities be the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Although a vaccine is coming in the near future, public health officials are still urging people to remain cautious. New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli said at the press conference on Nov. 23, “We need residents to be vigilant with the alarming surge in the cases that we are experiencing. We need you to be vigilant during this upcoming holiday. We cannot let our guard down.”