Update on COVID-19 Vaccines


Atara Ginsburg

It has been more than a year since our world turned upside down from the COVID-19 pandemic. While this has been a hard year, the approval of the COVID-19 vaccines is a sign of hope for the future. Recently, COVID-19 vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson have been approved by the CDC and are being released to the public. As more and more people around the country begin to get vaccinated, normal life seems more tangible. 

This past January, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved for emergency use by the CDC. These vaccines use new technology using synthetic mRNA to prime the immune system to produce antibodies against COVID-19. The vaccines allow the body to recognize corona’s spike protein so if it should come in contact with it in the future, it will be able to fight the virus off. This technology took many years of research and it is a miracle that scientists were prepared to use this research and technology to produce a vaccine in record time. Both types of vaccines require two doses to build up an immune response. While the two vaccines are very similar, there are differences. While Moderna is only approved for ages 18 and older, Pfizer is approved for 16 and older. Another difference is the wait time between the two doses of the vaccines. After the first Pfizer shot, patients must wait three weeks until they can receive their second dose while with Moderna they must wait four weeks. After the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, patients may experience mild side effects but should not be worried as this is part of the body’s immune response. 

In March, a third vaccine, produced by Johnson and Johnson, was approved for emergency use by the CDC. This vaccine differs from Pfizer and Moderna, as it does not use mRNA technology. Instead, Johnson and Johnson uses a viral vector technology in which a harmless virus, adenovirus, is used to bring instructions to produce non-infecting coronavirus m-spike protein into the cells. Once the body recognizes them, antibodies are produced like the Moderns and Pfizer vaccines. These antibodies will protect against future COVID infection. Another difference is that Johnson and Johnson only requires one dose while Pfizer and Moderna require two. On April 13th, Johnson and Johnson paused the distribution of their vaccines after they found reports of a possible severe side effect in six of the almost 7,000,000 doses administered. 

When the vaccines first were approved they were distributed to the people. Not everyone had access to them but as more and more vaccines were produced, more people became eligible. Now in New York State, vaccines are open to people of ages 16 years and up. This is great as now many people are eligible to receive a vaccine. 

Pfizer and Moderna are already working on vaccines for children. They are weeks away from receiving approval for children ages 12-15 for emergency use. Vaccines for children below 12 are still in their trial phase but hopefully will be approved soon. The quick rollout of vaccines is very encouraging and hopefully soon the population will achieve herd immunity and life can begin to go back to normal.