America was changed forever when the first patient was diagnosed with the Corona- virus in the early months of 2020. As one of the most scientifically advanced nations around the world, it is only natural that American scientists, laboratory experts, politicians, and public health professionals started to think of ways to treat and cure the infection right away. Having a progressive mentality is a key factor that has contributed to America’s success as a nation. Life must roll on, even in a pandemic.
Operation Warp Speed
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Health (NIH) and other major organizations have combined forces to initiate Operation Warp Speed. Operation Warm Speed is a strategy that aims to create and deliver 300 million doses of effective and safe COVID-19 Vaccines. Doses will begin to be administered around January of 2021 in order to speed up the process of manufacturing and distributing therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines (also referred to as countermeasures) for the Corona-virus.
Specific countermeasures are being taken to accelerate the distribution of vaccines in order to minimize the damage caused by the Corona-virus. The federal government overseeing the trial runs (as opposed to public-private partnerships) should also speed up the process. Certain steps must take place in a series of events when developing traditional vaccines. In this case, several steps will take place simultaneously.
Several significant events have taken place since the beginning of the year in relation to Operation Warp Speed and creating a vaccine for COVID-19. In March, the HHS invested $456 million in developing the Johnson $ Johnson’s candidate vaccine. The vaccine’s phase 1 clinical trials begin in the United States of America during July of 2020. Moderna’s vaccine got fast-track approval from the FDA and started its Phase 1 trial in March of 2020. Also, the HHS invested $450 million to support Regeneron’s manufacturing of their COVID-19 treatment called REGN-COV2. This arrangement is a pioneer in supporting possible therapeutics all the way to the manufacturing process.
Perhaps one of the most notable vaccines for the Corona-virus was introduced by Pfizer and BioNTech. The United Kingdom has recently approved the vaccine for emergency use which is a landmark event in the battle against the Corona-virus. This emergency use approval means that citizens outside of the trials will have the chance to be vaccinated against the virus. Experts predict that this authorization will decrease the amount of high-risk individuals that are hospitalized. There will be a global Phase 3 trial of the vaccine following the emergency use approval. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) will provide guidance on which populations should receive the vaccine first.
How Does the Pfizer Vaccine Work?
Studies indicate that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is about 95 percent effective which means it will be a successful vaccine. Messenger RNA is the active ingredient in the vaccine. Messenger RNA holds the instructions for making the virus’s spike protein and uses the protein to enter the cells. mRNA is not pulled from natural viruses, but is made by chemical synthesis. It is transported in a small sphere-shaped fatty material called a lipid nano-particle.
The nano-particles that carry the RNA get suspended in saline and then injected into the muscle tissue located in the upper arm. After that, the mRNA gets taken over by specialist immune cells. The immune cells follow the directions to create the spike protein the same way they would do if they were infected with the real Coronavirus.
The immune system flags the spike protein as foreign and begins to attack it. The attack activates antibodies, t cells, and b cells. This process also forms an immune memory. In other words, the immune system has learned how to properly destroy the pathogen and will act quickly if it is exposed to the virus in the future.
How long does this Vaccine work in the immune system?
There has not been enough research or clinical trials conducted at this point to determine how long the vaccine will be effective for once it enters the human system. However, the World Health Organization estimates that the immune memory should last at least six months. It is entirely possible that the COVID vaccine will be administered about once a year to individuals that want it (similar to the flu vaccine).
This vaccine is administered in a series of two shots. It takes about four weeks after the first dose for protective immunity to develop. Getting both shots is important because the second injection is needed to achieve immunity to the virus. During the trial, most people went about 19-42 days in between their two doses of injections. Not enough participants missed the second dose during the trials to accurately determine what happens to people that don’t get the second injection.
Side Effects of the Pfizer Vaccine
There were no serious side effects recorded during the trial runs of the vaccine. The most serious side effect was noted to be headaches and fatigue after receiving the second injection. Even then, only 4 percent of the participants reported fatigue and only 2 percent reported getting a headache. Others reported having pain at the site of the injection, but that is common for any type of vaccine. Younger participants reported having more symptoms than older participants.
In fact, the vaccine seemed to be very effective for older individuals (high-risk populations). The trial included individuals up to 85 years old. The success of the vaccine in participants over 64 years old was 95 percent. That percent is significantly higher than what many vaccine experts initially predicted. Not enough research has been done to accurately depict the success of the vaccination in individuals over the age of 85.
Power of Vaccinations
Vaccines have eradicated diseases and prevented a large number of deaths proving them to be one of the most powerful inventions in public health history. In a trial run of about 20,000 participants who received the COVID-19 vaccine, only eight caught the virus and only one became seriously ill. When compared to the number of people who are dying from the virus without the vaccine, this is a remarkable way to save lives.
America was built on the foundational principle that “United we stand, divided we fall” and we must stick together to beat the Corona-virus now more than ever!