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An Update of the Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine

By: Maddy Schioppo

As Covid-19 cases surge, especially in the United States, the world recently received promising news. Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, announced that their Covid vaccine is over 90 percent effective. Even more promising is that on December 11th, the FDA approved it and administration of the vaccine has begun. Here is what we know… 

Pfizer is a company working closely with the United States government on the Covid-19 vaccine distribution. Pfizer supplies vaccines to 165 countries and manufactures over 200 million doses of vaccines annually. The company’s intent is to rapidly scale, manufacture, and distribute large quantities of high-quality Covid vaccines in the United States and Europe. Pfizer recognizes the public concern and is committed to taking all measures to respond to the pandemic and help halt the spread of the disease. 

Traditional vaccines are made from dead or weakened versions of an infectious virus, but Pfizer’s vaccines are made from a new kind of technology. To develop it, the genes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, were evaluated to locate the part that codes the protein that allows the virus to infect people. The codes for that protein are isolated and copied as mRNA fragments, which are the instructions for building a protein. Those fragments are then packaged into special molecules and injected into the patient’s cells. Inside the cells, the mRNA enters the ribosomes, which are the organelles that actually make the proteins, and copies of the protein are made. The goal is that those copies will trigger the body to produce antibodies against the virus, which will, in turn, protect people from Covid-19. 

In July, Pfizer and BioNTech initiated a late-stage clinical trial on a vaccine for the Coronavirus, testing a sample of around 44,000 people. Half of the participants received the vaccine, while the other half received a saltwater placebo. The companies waited for the people to become ill to discover if the vaccine gave them any protection. When looking at the 94 participants who got sick with the coronavirus, the early analysis of the phase 3 trial suggests that the vaccine is more than 90 percent effective. The data was “blinded,” which is standard for clinical trials. This means that no one except the independent board knows exactly what portion of those 94 people got the vaccine versus the placebo, but it is evident that very few people who were vaccinated got sick. Clinical trials do not tell with certainty how effective something is; they only allow scientists to make an estimate based on statistics. The effectiveness can only be determined once it is administered to millions of people, but experts say that the preliminary data indicated that the overall effectiveness should be very high.

With the FDA’s emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, shipments and distribution has begun, marking a significant milestone in the country’s battle against the virus. The CDC and FDA will monitor the administration to ensure that there is no evidence of safety issues. Pfizer will also continue to monitor the patients in its study for two years after the vaccine administration. In the United States, the company’s vaccine will be available at no charge. 

History was made on Monday, December 14th, as the first nurses at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Sunset Boulevard were vaccinated. The vaccination of five healthcare workers took a total of 45 minutes, beginning shortly after 12:15 pm and finishing by around 12:54 pm. After the administration of each shot, cheers broke out from masked observers outside of the conference room. Since Monday, 12/14, the vaccine has been distributed to other healthcare workers across the United States. The most common side effect reported is slight arm pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site, and some flu-like symptoms. Some reports of more serious side effects have been allergic reactions, so people with severe allergies should take all precautions and speak with their doctor before getting the shot. This is all very new information, and as the vaccine continues to be administered to more and more people throughout the United States, there will be more certainty. Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine has given the world hope for the beginning of the end of this pandemic, but until then, the public should continue to take all precautions to stay safe!

Photo courtesy of abcnews