When the COVID-19 global pandemic settled like a dark cloud over the world at the start of 2020, a race to find effective treatments for the disease began. Vaccination is generally considered to be a top method of protection against infectious diseases—a vaccine helps one’s immune system to create antibodies to fight infection or prevent disease if exposed at a later time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “[i]mmunization with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical component of the United States strategy to reduce COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths….” Hundreds of vaccine candidates have been created and studied since the start of this unprecedented public health crisis, so the news that there are now two extremely promising vaccines that are close to becoming available is a good sign.
Moderna and Pfizer both have submitted approval requests for their vaccines to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The hope is that emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccines will be authorized by the FDA, as the most recent results from each company’s studies seem to confirm that both vaccines offer strong protection against the disease. Pfizer applied for authorization on November 20, two days after their data showed its vaccine to be 95 percent effective against COVID-19 about 28 days following the first dose. Moderna followed, applying on November 30 upon confirming that their vaccine is more than 94 percent effective. Both companies are seeking regulatory clearance to produce the vaccine and provide millions of doses in time to start the United States vaccinations in December.
If the FDA allows emergency use, Pfizer is planning to produce 50 million doses of their vaccine by December 2020 for use globally, with enough for 12.5 million people in the US. And Moderna hopes to have 20 million doses available for use in the US by the end of the year—enough for 10 million people to each receive a two-dose treatment. Shipments of each vaccine would begin immediately within 24 hours of its authorization for use by the FDA, with doses to be distributed according to a scheme created by a CDC-established panel of US experts, most likely starting with essential workers. The hope is that the vaccine will be available to the greater general population by the spring.
Experts understand that to stop the global pandemic in its tracks, there needs to be greater production of vaccines than what Pfizer and Moderna will be able to handle. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have also been working to develop COVID-19 vaccines, as well as some other companies in countries around the world. Each continues to test their vaccines; each is aiming to complete their studies as quickly as possible to contribute to stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus and the development of COVID-19. With the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as any developed by these other companies in the coming months, the hope is that there will be enough to positively impact public health and to end the pandemic sooner rather than later.
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