With Christmas around the corner, cases of COVID-19 are hitting record highs in America. As multiple states gear for intensive lockdown procedures, one can only wonder: how much longer will the virus control our lives?
President Donald Trump promised the American public that a vaccine would be finished before the end of 2020—and he kept that promise. Due to the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, COVID vaccines have been developed, tested, and distributed in less than a year. This is a monumental achievement and will stand as one of the hallmarks of the Trump administration.
Notably, Pfizer now possesses a vaccine that is over 90% effective. For reference, the flu vaccine is reported to be 40%-60% effective. On November 9th, Pfizer released their first interim report on their Phase 3 vaccine trials. The report states that after testing 43,538 participants, only 94 were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. The vaccine is administered in two doses, and protection from the virus is usually achieved 28 days after the initial injection.
The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for emergency use authorization by the FDA, for usage by ages 16 and older. The vaccine comes with a set of potential side effects—which generally last a few days and occur more prevalently after the second injection. However, Dr. Thad Stappenbeck, the head of the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, has indicated confidence that the vaccine will be safe for use. Common side effects include tiredness, headaches, muscle pains, and chills. The FDA stated that these symptoms will go away after a couple of days.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, has expressed concerns about distribution. “It needs to be kept at minus 70, minus 80 Centigrade, which is not something that most places have the ability to do no matter where you are in the United States, let alone the developing world,” said Adalja.
Another corporation, Moderna, has also made massive strides in their vaccine trials, possessing an astounding rate of 94.5% effectiveness. According to Moderna, all 11 severe cases of COVID-19 that were reported during trials stemmed from the corporation’s placebo group. It has not been indicated if Pfizer had similar findings, during their trials.
Pfizer is projecting to produce “up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.” Pfizer has also announced that they have signed a contract with the United States worth $1.95 billion, which provides the U.S with 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Similarly, Moderna is expected to produce 20 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020.
So, what does this mean for the average American? The director of the CDC, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, stated in a Senate hearing that they are projecting about 700 million doses of the vaccine to be available by April and late March, which would be enough to vaccinate every American.
However, the distribution of the vaccine will vary from state to state. The CDC ordered states to submit drafts of distribution plans. Massachusetts has submitted an outline, which details a three-phase process. In the first phase, frontline health workers would receive the vaccine, along with the immunocompromised and essential workers. Assuming there is enough to go around, phases two and three would prioritize the aforementioned groups, while also branching out to the general public.