Vaccines against COVID-19 have started their mass vaccination programmes in early December 2020. Since then, multiple vaccines have been approved for use, and many more are being manufactured and tested. Different types of vaccines are being made to fight the spread of COVID-19.
The current vaccine campaign
The COVID-19 vaccine campaign was initiated by the 45th US President, Donald Trump, and later transitioned into the current US president’s Joe Biden administration. His presidency began with the goal of administrating a hundred million shots in the first 100 days in office. He soon surpassed this goal and upped this to two hundred million shots.
Research for COVID-19 vaccines began in early 2020 by several companies worldwide. By October 2020, 44 vaccines were on clinical trials on humans, and 91 pre-clinical vaccines were tested on animals.
There are three currently authorised and recommended COVID-19 vaccines in the US: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen.
The first vaccine to be FDA-approved was the Pfizer-BioNTech in early December 2020. Mass vaccination campaigns were initiated shortly after. The Moderna vaccine was approved a few days later. Later, Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved in late February 2021.
The US has administered more than 100 million doses of the vaccine by March 2021. President Biden has also announced that he would make all adults legible to take the shot. In early April 2021, Johnson & Johnson vaccines were put on pause by the CDC and the FDA when 6 women from ages 18-48 developed a rare and severe blood clot.
The FDA constantly regulates these vaccines and have done trials on them, but additional considerations and studies must be observed with:
- Those with a severe allergic reaction to one of the ingredients or getting an allergic reaction after the first dose
- Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Those who have tested positive for COVID-19
- Those with underlying medical conditions
- Children and adolescents
The different vaccines available for the public
As listed above, there are only three currently authorised COVID-19 vaccines in the US.
Pfizer-BioNTech needs two shots and must take the second dose after 21 days. It is recommended for ages 16 and above. Moderna also needs two shots and must take shots 28 days apart. Johnson & Johnson needs only one shot. Both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are recommended for ages 18 and above.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose for Pfizer and Moderna or the 1st shot for Johnson & Johnson.
The European Commission has authorised four vaccines the European Medicines Agency (EMA) evaluated: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. The AstraZeneca vaccine is also given in two doses with an interval of 8–12 weeks. The vaccine is recommended for those aged 18 and above.
Countries in Asia like China have been manufacturing their vaccines like Sinopharm Sinovac and have already administered 4.5 million doses. India is a manufacturing hub of vaccines and has signed with Russia to produce 300 million Sputnik V vaccine doses. Japan has also received funding to locally manufacture the Novavax vaccine.
Most Southeast Asian countries have not approved of any vaccines, but many have availed of China’s Sinovac like Indonesia and Laos. Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia have signed deals with AstraZeneca to avail doses.
The different kinds of vaccines
There are three ways a vaccine can be synthesised. They only vary on what parts the vaccine will be synthesised from; one can use the whole virus or bacterium structure, the parts of the virus that trigger the immune system, or the genetic material inside the virus that makes instructions to create specific proteins.
Inactivated, live-attenuated, and viral vector vaccines use the entire virus structure approach. Inactivated vaccines ‘kill’ the live virus with chemicals, heat, or radiation. This was how the flu and polio vaccines (IPV) were made. It has a long production time and will need 2–3 doses.
Live-attenuated vaccines use a weakened live version of the virus. The measles, mumps, and rubella, and chickenpox vaccines were created using this approach. It uses similar processes as the inactivated vaccines but is contraindicated for people who are immunocompromised.
Viral vector vaccines make use of a safe version of the virus to employ the proteins to cause an immune response in the body without actually causing disease. The proteins are inserted in the safe virus which acts as a platform or a vector to deliver the proteins inside the body. This type of vaccine can be developed rapidly and is how the Ebola vaccine was made.
RNA vaccines use a section of the genetic material of the virus that contains instructions to make the protein the immune system can recognise and generate a response to. This is the most recent way of developing vaccines. This is also utilised by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
The number of people getting the dose rises higher every day, as well as the market of disposable syringes, are in high demand. Even though there is the challenge of limited supplies, many companies are producing reliable and authorised COVID-19 vaccines. Availing any brand of vaccine of COVID-19 will greatly strengthen the immune system and prevent the disease from getting severe. When it’s available to you, take the shot. Every manner of protection is needed in the fight against COVID-19.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has a particular interest in mental health and well-being.
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