Two COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized in the US; here's what we know about them
Two COVID-19 vaccines are now approved in the US.
The Moderna vaccine arrived across the country on Monday just three days after it was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. It follows the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which is given to health care workers and nursing home residents.
As Americans prepare for vaccination, many also have questions. What is the difference between these two vaccines, how effective are they and when do we all expect to get them?
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Here's what we know about the COVID-19 vaccines and what they could mean for the pandemic.
What are the leading COVID-19 vaccines?
Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech developed one of the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines, BNT162b2.
Moderna, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, developed a COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, which was approved on Friday.
How effective are the vaccine candidates and what does that mean?
All late-stage vaccine studies involve at least 30,000 volunteers, half of whom will receive the active vaccine and half will receive the placebo.
Both vaccines require two doses. The Pfizer BioNTech images are submitted every 21 days. Modernas are 28 days apart.
From one week after the second dose, participants will be observed whether they will contract COVID-19.
In each of the studies, it is statistically possible to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine after around 150 participants develop COVID-19.
Nearly 200 study participants developed symptomatic COVID-19 in the Moderna study, only 11 of whom had received the active vaccine. Because the infection rate was so much higher in the placebo group, the statistical analysis found that the vaccine was 94% effective overall, according to safety and efficacy data published on December 15.
Pfizer / BioNTech reported on Nov. 18 that of 170 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among study participants, 162 were in the placebo group, compared with eight in the vaccine group. A safety and effectiveness report published on December 8th confirmed the results.
Are there any side effects with the vaccines?
In Moderna's Phase 3 studies, the company stated that the most common side effects were fatigue, sore muscles and pain, joint pain and headache, and pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.
In Pfizer / BioNTech Phase 3 trials, many participants experienced side effects for a day or two after taking their shots, especially the second. The most commonly reported side effect in vaccine recipients under 55 years of age was a sore arm, followed by fatigue (60% after the second shot); Headache (52% after the second shot); other muscle pain (37%); and chills (35%). About 28% took pain medication after the first shot and 45% after the second shot.
"Having a sore arm and feeling bad for a day or two is way better than COVID," said Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Health Policy and Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Doctors emphasize that the side effects are not only normal, but also a sign that the body is responding properly to the vaccine.
The side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines are similar to the side effects of the influenza vaccine, which include pain, redness, and / or swelling when shot, headache, mild fever, nausea, muscle pain, and fatigue The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In trials of 44,000 and 30,000, respectively, Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna saw very few problems that were more serious than a few days feeling lousy.
Four people in the Pfizer / BioNTech study and three people in the Moderna study developed Bell's palsy, a neurological disorder that causes temporary drooping on one side of the face.
At least two people in the UK, where the vaccine was first registered and marketed, and several Americans have had severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which is a tiny fraction of those vaccinated. The federal government is investigating these reactions, but so far has determined that the vaccine appears safe for anyone who has not previously had an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
What are the differences between the two vaccines?
Most US-sponsored vaccines target the "spike protein" found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19, which allows the virus to attach to and infect host cells.
Both vaccines present this spike protein to the immune system. The spike proteins are not dangerous as the rest of the virus is absent. Now the body sees the protein and designs immune "soldiers" to fight it.
Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines deliver strands of genetic material known as mRNA that turn human cells into spike protein factories.
This technology has never been used in an approved vaccine, despite being tested against other diseases. This time mRNA technology was chosen because scientists knew it could be developed quickly.
Other COVID-19 vaccine candidates supported by the U.S. government target the spike protein via another carrier virus or tiny particles.
The vaccines require different types of storage.
The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine must be kept super cold at dry ice temperature until just prior to use. The Moderna vaccine must be frozen for long-term storage, but it can be refrigerated for up to a month before use.
When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Since the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine was approved, healthcare workers and people in long-term facilities across the country have lined up to receive their proposed vaccine.
Some high profile politicians such as Florida Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Marco Rubio were publicly vaccinated to increase confidence in the vaccine.
A CDC advisory board ruled on Sunday that police, firefighters, teachers and grocers will be among the next to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
When voting in the committee, it was recommended that people aged 75 and over and key frontline workers should be included in phase 1b. They make up approximately 30 million people among these groups:
First aiders such as fire brigade, police
Teachers, support staff, day care workers
Food and farm workers
U.S. Postal Service Employee
Employees in local public transport
Workers in grocery stores
As the vaccine supply is initially limited, phase 1b is not expected to start until February.
In phase 1c, people between the ages of 65 and 74 and people between 16 and 64 with a high risk of illness and other important employees are included. This would amount to around 57 million people and include:
Public Health Workers
Transport and logistics workers
Food service employees
IT and communications staff
Public Safety Engineers
Water and sewage workers
Phase 2 would include anyone aged 16 and over who was not in phase 1 and is recommended for vaccination. This means that people aged 16 and over are at high risk of disease.
Coronavirus Updates: Moderna Vaccinations Start Monday; New York Governor Cuomo urges the government to ban flights from the UK
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told USA TODAY on November 18 that he expected the public to start vaccinating as early as April.
Featuring: Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
US TODAY health and patient safety coverage is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide any editorial contributions.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: COVID Vaccine: Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna to know all about it
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