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Everything You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Vaccine

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The U.S. just reached a dark milestone: 10 million reported coronavirus cases. But there is also big news for a potential coronavirus vaccine. On November 9, Pfizer and German drugmaker BioNTech announced that data from their ongoing coronavirus vaccine trial shows the vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, per the New York…
Everything You Need to Know About the Coronavirus Vaccine

The U.S. just reached a dark milestone: 10 million reported coronavirus cases. But there is also big news for a potential coronavirus vaccine. On November 9, Pfizer and German drugmaker BioNTech announced that data from their ongoing coronavirus vaccine trial shows the vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, per the New York Times.The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is just one of 11 potential coronavirus vaccines currently in late-stage trials. “If Pfizer already has promising results, other trials may have some good news soon as well,” says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Network and co-investigator on the vaccine trials. On November 16, a second vaccine, from Moderna, which uses similar technology, was reported to be 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19. “These are obviously very exciting results,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN. “It’s just as good as it gets—94.5% is truly outstanding.” One difference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is that the Moderna version does not have to be stored at as cold a temperature, which could make distribution easier. (In a delightful twist, news broke on November 17 that the $1 million Dolly Parton donated to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University actually helped fund Moderna’s vaccine.) So what does this mean about when you’ll actually be able to get a safe, reliable coronavirus vaccine? Here’s everything you need to know.When will a coronavirus vaccine be approved?Before the vaccine can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Pfizer (and any other drugmakers with a promising vaccine trial) will have to finish collecting two months of safety data. Pfizer will be done collecting this information in late November. Assuming everything checks out, the company plans to ask for fast-tracked emergency authorization from the FDA, according to the New York Times.Will the coronavirus vaccine be safe?The FDA is responsible for making sure that any fast-tracked vaccine not only works but is safe. “The vaccine must go through a minimum of three phases before approval,” Parikh says, “the last being the most thorough with a minimum of 30,000 individuals tested, especially those in high-risk groups such as the elderly, those with diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and racial groups with health disparities.” There are still some unknowns, like whether or not a vaccine will be safe for kids or pregnant women. Pfizer announced in October that it would start testing its vaccine in kids, but currently there are no trials that include pregnant women—who are more likely to suffer from serious complications of the coronavirus. “We will need that data to determine safety, as every group is different,” says Parikh.Like any vaccine, there will likely be some side effects, but so far participants in the clinical trials have shown only mild reactions, says Parikh: “Most commonly we have been seeing muscle soreness, fever, and pain at the injection site. In all cases, side effects fully resolve in a couple of days.”How long will you have immunity from the coronavirus?The short answer: Experts don’t know how long immunity from the coronavirus vaccine will last. The vaccine may offer protection for life, or it may act more like the flu vaccine and last only a few months.Will you need a vaccine if you’ve already had coronavirus?It’s uncertain whether the millions of people around the world who have had COVID-19 and recovered will need to get a vaccine. A vaccine trial run by Astra Zeneca is including recovered patients in its trials, says Parikh, but the Pfizer trial does not. “As we learn more we will have better guidelines, but I personally feel as an immunologist that everyone should receive it as we are seeing cases of reinfection and some are more severe the second time,” she says.When will people be able to start getting vaccinated?According to Pfizer, if its coronavirus vaccine is approved by the FDA, the company says that, by the end of 2020, it will have manufactured enough for 15 to 20 million people, per the New York Times.Read More

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