Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine: What to know about the vaccine development in 2021

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine remains the only hope for people around the world that can end the pandemic.

Since the pandemic began in December 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has killed over 2 million people already. Clearly, this type of novel coronavirus has broken the record of HIV/AIDS 40 years ago as the deadliest respiratory pandemic in a century. For more than a year now, scientists and researchers have been working around the clock to develop effective coronavirus vaccines, which people started receiving in December 2020.

But the threshold question that bothers people worldwide is about which vaccine is the safest, effective, and most qualified. And what are the things you need to know about the vaccines in the market?

Here are some very important facts you need to know about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine in 2021.

Approved Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines

Right now, several vaccines are already rolling out in the market, although the supply is still very limited. For instance, in the United States, several vaccines are still up for approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To ensure safety, each of the coronavirus vaccine brands must have passed through the three phases of tests. Phase 3 of the tests require the participation of tens of thousands of people for the clinical and medical observation of the vaccine.

For the time being, the United States has already approved the use of two coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines:

A. the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

B. the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

On another note, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, developed in Germany, became ready for rollout last December 11, 2020, after receiving FDA approval.

During the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine trial, 43,000 people took part in phase 3 of its trial. To note, around half received a placebo, and the half received 2 doses, 21 days apart. The results showed 95% efficiency at protecting against COVID-19.

On the other hand, the Moderna vaccine, developed in Cambridge, MA, also received approval for emergency use in the U.S. on December 18. In a phase 3 trial, 30,000 volunteers received the vaccine from either a placebo or two doses of the vaccine, 28 days apart. The results showed 94% efficiency.

Other vaccines approved in other countries:

-The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, in the United Kingdom

-Coronavac, developed by Sinovac, in China

The Sputnik V vaccine, in Russia

-Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, in India

Meanwhile, the Novavax vaccine is currently undergoing phase 3 trials, as is Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine. Companies based in the U.S. developed both these vaccines. For the latest update on vaccine developments, you may check the updates on the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine

How safe are these Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines?

Before getting approval, the vaccine needs to pass through several stages of trials first. Once the test shows commendable results, the manufacturer can then apply for approval from a country’s health authority. For example, the FDA gives this approval in the USA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also helps to ensure public safety.

Initially, scientists still don’t know the specific long-term effects of any new medical treatment, including a vaccine during its first years. And even though its use is already made available for public use, scientists and medical experts still perform extensive testing to determine the known dangers of developing COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person who has had a COVID-19 vaccine may experience flu-like symptoms and other side effects, including:

-pain at the injection site

-swelling at the injection site

-fatigue

-headache and muscle pain

-a fever

Consequently, the person who took the Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines may feel worse after the second dose. This is not because the vaccine is dangerous, but this is a sign that the body’s immune response will be intensified.

Can I administer the vaccine by myself?

No. You must get the vaccine from a licensed healthcare professional and follow every instruction, including getting a second dose. You may receive it at a local health department, hospital, clinic, or pharmacy.

Moreover, it also important for the person getting the vaccine to inform the healthcare worker about his/her history of allergies.

How can I get the vaccine?

For this time, vaccine doses are still limited. As a result, health front liners, residents of long-term care facilities, first responders, and people aged 75 years and older. Once the supply will increase, everyone will be able to receive it.

Some countries will receive it for free however, some countries require their citizen to pay for the vaccine.

Types of COVID-19 vaccine

Researchers have used various approaches to developing vaccines that protect against COVID-19. As a result, they have developed different types of vaccine, including:

-whole virus vaccines

-recombinant protein subunit vaccines

-replication-incompetent vector vaccines

-nucleic acid vaccines

We explore these types in more detail below:

Whole virus vaccine

We also know this type of vaccine as an “inactivated” or “weakened” virus vaccine. It contains dead or inactivated forms of the virus. These vaccines cannot cause an infection because they do not contain the live virus.

The COVID-19 vaccines made by Sinovac, Bharat Biotec, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products are of this type.

Recombinant protein subunit vaccine

This type of vaccine triggers a strong immune response to a key part of the virus. It cannot cause an infection because it does not contain a live pathogen, such as a virus.

Currently, researchers are investigating whether they can make a recombinant protein subunit vaccine. They wanted to come up with a vaccine that targets a protein, called the spike protein, that the new coronavirus uses to latch onto and infect cells.

Novavax is one company taking this approach, using nanoparticle technology.

Replication-incompetent vector vaccine

This type acts as a platform for carrying genes that the body can express to provide immunity.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, which has approval in some countries, is a replication-incompetent vector vaccine. It uses a harmless, weakened adenovirus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees to provoke an immune response.

The scientists then changed the virus to make it suitable for humans. In other vaccines, this type of virus has safely produced a strong immune response.

In July 2020, an Ebola vaccine of this type received approval, and it may provide the basis for further COVID-19 vaccines.

Nucleic acid vaccine

This type of Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine is also called an mRNA-based vaccine. In this type, vaccination involves injecting genetic material called mRNA into live host cells.

Each of these vaccines is designed to target a particular pathogen. In a COVID-19 vaccine, the mRNA contains instructions for producing coronavirus spike protein. The vaccine presents this information to the immune system, and as a result, the body produces antibodies to combat the virus.

Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna have developed this type of vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are already available in the U.S.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines for any form of disease prompt the immune system to make antibodies to fight against specific diseases. Medically, vaccines make the immune system behave as if the body already had this illness.

Vaccines work in wonder and give you immunity without making you feel sick.

After vaccination, the person develops immunity to the disease. Their body can fight off the infection if exposed to the pathogen, such as the novel coronavirus, occurs.

The main reason researchers continue to study vaccines is to ensure they don’t cause any side effects. Also, they must also ensure that the vaccines are safe for everyone, including people with allergies, young children, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, older adults, and people with underlying health conditions.

How can I prevent infection?

While waiting for a vaccine, people need to take other steps to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

The CDC recommends the following ways of reducing the risk of infection:

-wearing a face-covering in public

-washing the hands with soap and hot water frequently, for at least 20 seconds at a time

-using a hand sanitizer, with at least 60% alcohol, when washing the hands is not possible

-covering any sneeze or cough with a tissue, disposing of this at once, and washing the hands

-avoiding touching the face

-regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that people frequently touch, such as doorknobs

-limiting or avoiding handshakes

-staying home and away from others if sick

-staying at least 6 feet away from people who are not housemates

-avoiding crowds whenever possible

-avoiding poorly ventilated places whenever possible

-being watchful for any symptoms, including a high fever and a cough

If a person has a mild or asymptomatic form of COVID-19, it is still crucial to limit contact with others, especially older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

If anyone needs medical care for what may be COVID-19 symptoms, call ahead to let the clinic or hospital know about the problem and wear a face mask on the way.

The CDC also recommends that anyone who may have been exposed to the virus:

-contacts a healthcare provider

-keeps track of their symptoms

-isolates at home, staying away from others as much as possible

-seeks emergency medical care for any severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing

Besides health and safety measures, maintaining a balanced diet, staying active, and making other healthful choices can also help.

The Bottom Line

COVID-19 is a serious medical concern that has already killed millions of people. Right now, governments across the world are racing to come up with the most effective vaccines. Besides government leaders, experts and authorities are working to develop and administer vaccines and enact other preventive measures.

The goal is for everyone to have access to a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine in 2021. While waiting for it to become available, follow all guidance from public health authorities and medical experts.

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