COVID19 once seems to be diminishing, is again hiking, and forcing millions of people back into lockdown; with many countries again imposing lockdown worsening the already ravaged economy. But the COVID vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, promising 90% effectiveness against the virus is giving the world yet a new hope.
What is this vaccine which is giving everyone hope of “back to normal spring”? How effective will it be? When and to whom will the COVID vaccine be available?
COVID Vaccine: grounds of hope
President Donal Trump after losing his presidency to President-elect Joe Biden in the last week’s election hailed the announcement of vaccine saying it “such a great news”. If the vaccine gives a positive result in all the conducted test, then America is all set to begin vaccinating its citizen by December, says Alex Azar, Health Secretary.
The COVID vaccine is being developed by the U.S. drugmaker Pfizer along with German biotech firm BioNTech. The vaccine has successfully passed the initial testing stages; it has been tested on about 43,500 people from six countries and till now none of them has shown any negative impacts or safety concerns.
In preliminary tests, the vaccine is found 90% effective, in the next step, it would be reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both the companies have hailed it as “great day for science and humanity”; and have applied for emergency approval of the vaccines, by the end of November.
How does this vaccine work?
This aspirational COVID vaccine is developed by the use of mRNA technology. Unlike other candidate vaccines, the mRNA vaccines are synthetically prepared. Most of the other vaccine candidates needed the virus to either cultivate or replicate itself, but this one uses just the code, targeting the most vital part of the immune system.
The mRNA technology makes use of the messenger RNA molecules, which directs the cells for building specific proteins. In this vaccine, the mRNA consists of the virus’s genetic code, which informs the cell for developing proteins of the novel coronavirus.
When the vaccine is injected, it will guide the cells to create such protein and that will, in turn, help the immune system develop antibodies against the coronavirus as well as T-cell which fights with the virus.
Once the vaccine clears all the tests, it can be mass produced in large vats called bioreactors.
How effective is this COVID vaccine?
The phase 3 trial of this vaccine (BNT162b2) began on 27 July. Till now the vaccine is tested on 43,538 candidates from US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey; amongst which 38,955 participants got their second dose on 8 November.
The 90% effectiveness result of the vaccine is based on just the first 94 volunteers. So, when the results of all the participants will be released the effectiveness of the vaccine may change.
Dr Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, as releasing the 90% effectiveness results said; “The results demonstrate that our mRNA-based vaccine can help prevent Covid-19 in the majority of people who receive it. This means we are one step closer to potentially providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global pandemic. This is a first but critical step as we continue our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine”.
When will the vaccine be available in the market?
Even though both the companies have planned for large scale production of the vaccine; only a limited population will enjoy the leverage of the vaccine by the end of 2020.
The companies are completely set to supply 50 million doses by the end of 2020, and further 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Since each person needs two doses of the vaccine, three weeks apart, for developing anti-bodies against COVID-19 and there are currently more than 52 million infected patients of coronavirus globally; it is clear that vaccine would not be available to everyone in any time soon. The vaccine should be kept in ultra-cold storage at 80 degrees Celcius is yet another challenging part.
For a fair distribution of the vaccine, every country has to prioritize the candidates. The obvious priority will be the frontline workers; Hospital staff and security forces. Furthermore since the elderly are more vulnerable to the virus, they will be given preference too.
But it also depends on the vaccine, it might not work the same for every age group. Last in the queue will surely stand people of age group under 50 with no medical problems.
There standstill a lot of unsettled questions about the vaccines. For how long will the immunity last? Will it be able to cure people under serious condition? Will, it prevents the infected person from spreading the virus to others?
But at this juncture, the vaccine is giving hope for “back to normal days” is quite satisfying for most of the people.