By Linda Cheung and Sahil Gandhi
Ever since the initial discovery of the coronavirus in early 2020, there has been a fierce race for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines for this virus have been produced in record time, faster than the polio vaccine and even mumps, which was previously the fastest vaccine to be made in just four years. As of December 14, 2020, the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use and Sandra Lindsay was the first person in the US outside clinical trials to receive the vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine has the potential to benefit many people across the globe, especially in countries facing increasing cases of the virus. This vaccine displays promise in an end to the pandemic as well as a return to normalcy for people worldwide. The research for this vaccine has brought scientists all over the world together and will eventually help solve the public health crisis. When people get vaccinated, they will not only protect themselves from the virus but also protect all those around them. According to the CDC, an effective vaccine is the safest way to help build protection against the virus.
By taking the vaccine, the genomic sequence of the virus is recognized by cells in the body, so when the real virus does enter one’s body, the cells know how to defeat it. If this effect is replicated by people across the globe, herd immunity would take effect, a concept in which “a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of a disease from person to person unlikely,” according to Mayo Clinic.
Moderna and Pfizer have recently announced their successful results for the COVID-19 vaccine by using synthetic mRNA. Using this method is different because companies were able to produce it faster than if they used conventional methods.
However, there are a couple of disadvantages to using mRNA. Due to the mRNA’s fragile state, vaccines deteriorate quite rapidly when not stored at sub-zero temperatures. For example, Moderna’s vaccine must be stored at -20 degrees Celsius, or around the temperature of a freezer. In contrast, Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, which is colder than winter in Antarctica. These temperature constraints may pose a problem with the distribution of the vaccine to rural, remote, and underdeveloped regions throughout the world.
“It’s potentially a wise option and I believe it brings hope to a lot of people...”
In addition, Pfizer’s vaccine requires special equipment to keep temperatures that low. This would be an issue in regions that may not have this equipment and as a result, certain populations may not receive a vaccine.
While Moderna’s temperature constraints seem more attainable, transportation of the vaccines could pose a problem. While temperatures must be at -20 degrees Celsius, this means the vaccine must be transported at that temperature, and not many long distance vehicles are equipped to transport these vaccines in such a manner.
Even though many companies have already started the process of making a vaccine, the distribution of these vaccines will be a plan of its own. When the vaccines do become available to the public, certifying an efficient distribution to the public “will present an unprecedented challenge,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Department of Defense has the responsibility of creating a plan for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Artwork by Sabeena Ramdarie, @jammin_with_jelly
As news of the COVID-19 vaccine continues to progress, many are still apprehensive on whether or not they would take it if given the chance.
Many NHP students have spoken about their opinions on the vaccine and if they would take it themselves.
“I would take it only if government officials take it as well. Previously, I was skeptical on it being rushed, but with the recent studies from Pfizer and Moderna I feel safe taking it. Although I would take it, I first would like to wait for a government official to take it for precaution. I believe it was politicized, which is a shame because many people’s lives could be saved,” said senior Giancarlo Valle.
“I think people should take the vaccine because it’s an added barrier that prevents you from getting this awful disease. It’s a quick and effective method to help grow immunity against COVID. The sooner people get the vaccine, the sooner the world can start going back to some type of normalcy,” said junior Faiza Ahmed.
“I personally would take the vaccine. But, I wouldn’t want to be in the first group of people who take it since it hasn’t gotten the clinical trials many other vaccines get before they are given to the public. Also, we don’t know if the long term side effects this vaccine may carry, so that aspect scares me a bit,” said senior Naayiemah Abdullah.
“I don’t think the vaccine is a cure, but it may help prevent the spread of COVID. It’s potentially a wise option and I believe it brings hope to a lot of people,” said senior Evita George
“I believe that the use of mRNA to stimulate the body to create protective antibodies is truly remarkable. Not only does it hold a promising resolution to our current situation, but it revolutionizes vaccines in such a way that helps researchers combat a variety of viruses. Due to this emerging technology of the inclusion of mRNA in vaccines, I am a little bit skeptical about the vaccine itself. However, through effective implementation and throughout research and efficiency, I will take the vaccine at some point. And with the fact that I am a high school student who is attending a public high school, it is a good idea for me to take the vaccine instead of secluding myself from my community,” said junior Sanjit Menon.
“I would get the vaccine, but of course, the priority right now is to make sure that all of our healthcare workers and professionals get them first because they need it more than I do right now,” said senior Pranav Palanickal.
“This vaccine displays promise in an end to the pandemic as well as a return to normalcy for people all across the globe...”
Since many companies producing a vaccine have shown promising results, questions arise as to when these vaccines will be approved. The FDA has been working closely with AstraZeneca on approval for the vaccine, but officials at AstraZeneca decided to omit a vital piece of information from the FDA: a participant in the vaccine trials became ill. Since representatives at AstraZeneca failed to inform officials from the FDA, these officials found out about the incident through news outlets, creating distrust which could possibly set back AstraZeneca’s goals of FDA approval to a later date.
“A setback in FDA approval would affect me and everyone else at NHP. I have mixed feelings about the vaccine’s arrival. I do wish that it would come faster; however, I don’t want to rush the process and make sure it is safe enough for use,” said freshman Ruth Zachariah.
“If the COVID-19 vaccine was made possible, then the cases of COVID-19 would decrease along with fear and precautions,” said freshman Safaa Mufti.
“Operation Warp Speed [under the Department of Defense] will ensure that the vaccine is delivered, but each state and respective territories are responsible for distributing doses. It’s important to note that each state will have its own patients’ data registries with regards to co-morbidities and risk classification. Therefore, the distribution of the vaccines will be done in a cohesive manner to ensure that those who meet the established criteria will receive it first,” said junior Elisa George.
“I honestly wouldn’t want to be the first batch to take the vaccine because of how the government has handled the pandemic thus far,” senior Daniel Leong.
With varying opinions across the board, NHP has a multitude of thoughts on the emerging COVID-19 vaccine, but for now, everyone must sit tight and continue to wear a mask.