Sunny Sivakumar (‘21)
Since COVID-19 was discovered in late 2019, the race to find a vaccine has been ongoing as the world remains in quarantine. While the process to create a vaccine normally takes years, scientists have been working to find one as quickly as possible. Now, it seems that not one but two companies have vaccines that could prove to be effective.
The first vaccine comes from a joint effort from Pfizer and BioNTech. Over the summer, the two companies conducted a clinical trial of almost 44,000 people. The data was promising, suggesting the vaccine was “over 90 percent effective”. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires at least 50% effectiveness in cases of “emergency authorization”. The vaccine has recently been approved by the FDA, and there’s a chance distribution could start before the end of 2020. The first people to get the vaccine will likely be higher risk populations, such as those with pre-existing conditions, hospital workers, and the elderly. These two companies also have a deal with the United States government for vaccine distribution, although they did not receive any funding from the government while creating it.
The second vaccine comes from Moderna, which did use government funding for vaccine production. Based on data that has recently been released, their vaccine looks to be “94% effective”. Moderna plans to also apply for emergency authorization from the FDA, hoping for a “public meeting” on December 17th, a week after Pfizer’s. While the two vaccines are different, both seem to “prevent severe cases”, and are based on the same “genetic material” technology. Even though the two companies are technically competing, the large number of doses needed, as well as the time and resources required for production, , means both kinds will be highly demanded.
Although these two vaccines are ahead in the process, scientists all over the world continue to work to find one that is even more effective. While these results make a return to normal seem excitingly close, the New York Times warns that people must continue to wear masks and social distance even if one of these vaccines gets approved. Additionally, it will be a long time before the general public is able to access these vaccines, and so for now, all we can do is wait.