President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to boost supplies of coronavirus vaccine and set up new vaccination sites to meet his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days. It's part of a broader COVID strategy that also seeks to straighten out snags in testing and ensure minority communities are not left out.
“Some wonder if we are reaching too far,” Biden said Friday. “Let me be clear, I'm convinced we can get it done.”
The real payoff, Biden said, will come from uniting the nation in a new effort grounded in science.
Biden spoke a day after unveiling a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to confront the virus and provide temporary support for a shaky economy. About $400 billion of the plan is focused on measures aimed at controlling the virus. Those range from mass vaccination centers to more sophisticated scientific analysis of new strains and squads of local health workers to trace the contacts of infected people.
“You have my word: We will manage the hell out of this operation,” Biden declared. He underscored a need for Congress to approve more money and for people to keep following basic precautions, such as wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and frequently washing their hands.
How do the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both
mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines. These are a new type of vaccines that trigger an immune response by using mRNA to instruct cells to make a harmless snippet of the spike protein that is found on the surface of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. This protein triggers an immune response in the body, producing antibodies and protecting vaccinated people from getting infected if they are exposed to the real virus.
How do the two approved vaccines differ?
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines with similar efficacy (95% and 94.1% respectively), they have a
few important differences. For one, while the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people 16 and older, the Moderna vaccine is restricted to those 18 and older. And while both need two doses, the Pfizer one requires 21 days between doses and Moderna requires 28. A key difference, however, is storage temperature. The Moderna vaccine is easier to ship, because it needs to be stored at -4 Fahrenheit. On the other hand, the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at a much lower temperature: -94 Fahrenheit.
Are there any side effects?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can trigger a
range of side effects. Most are mild, such as pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain, and some people in clinical trials reported fever. These side effects are completely normal and are a symptom of the immune response kicking in. However, there have been very few more serious allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine.
How did we develop vaccines so quickly?
These vaccines were able to be developed so quickly because the U.S. Congress directed nearly
$10 billion to Operation Warp Speed, which was the project with the goal of producing and delivering 300 million safe and effective doses of vaccine by January 2021. While that goal has not been met, the vaccines were developed unprecedentedly quickly. On Twitter, Dr. Sydnee McElroy, a family doctor, compared the speed of vaccine development to expedited shipping, where you pay more to get your items faster, but they are still handled safely.
How do we know these vaccines are safe?
These vaccines were approved in record time through emergency use authorization. However, they still went through
all three phases of clinical trials in order to ensure safety and efficacy. In addition, the vaccine went through a manufacturing investigation and has been approved by the FDA. And as the vaccine is rolled out, it is monitored for any unexpected side effects.
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Why are two doses necessary?
multiple doses of a vaccine, the body has a chance to produce more antibodies against the virus because it is exposed to more antigens, which create more memory cells. This means that when the body is exposed to the real virus, it will have a faster and more effective antibody response. In the case of these two vaccines, two doses is the best way to create the most effective number of memory cells and antibodies.
How long does it take for the vaccine to work?
The Pfizer vaccine
offers immunity no less than seven days after the final dose and the Moderna vaccine offers immunity no less than 14 days after the final dose. It is so far unknown how long immunity will last, although experts think that it should last for a few years. However, more studies will need to be done.
Why have some people had allergic reactions?
In very few instances, the Pfizer vaccine has caused a
severe allergic reaction. Scientists think this might be due to a compound, polyethylene glycol (PEG), used to package the mRNA. PEG has never been used in an approved vaccine (this is an authorized vaccine), but it is found in drugs that occasionally trigger severe anaphylactic reactions. However, some scientists are still skeptical of the causation.
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Should I get the vaccine if I carry an EpiPen?
CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions should still get vaccinated, as long as their allergic reactions are not related to vaccines or injectable medicines. However, people allergic to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or polysorbate should not get the vaccine.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for kids?
The current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are
only available to teenagers 16 and 18 years old, respectively. Because children’s immune systems are different from adults and respond differently at different ages, research that’s been done on the vaccines for ages 16 and up needs to be repeated on children of younger ages. However, a full pediatric vaccine will hopefully be available by late 2021. And luckily, the virus so far seems to impact children much less seriously than adults.
What is a ‘first priority’ group and who is in it?
In order to
prioritize who will be vaccinated first and in what order, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that the first priority group include healthcare workers and long-term care residents, for example those in nursing homes. This priority group is estimated to consist of around 17.6 million people.
When will I get vaccinated?
When a person will get vaccinated depends on their age, health condition, profession, and where they live. After the first priority group is vaccinated, the next group will be
essential non-healthcare workers and people 75 and older. However, states have the final say, so it may not be exactly the same across the country.
What are the priority health conditions for vaccination?
The ACIP says that the following high-risk health factors would qualify someone to be part of a
priority group for the vaccine: “obesity, severe obesity, type 2 diabetes, COPD, a heart condition, chronic kidney disease, cancer, immunocompromised state as the result of a solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, pregnancy, and smoking.”
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Which jobs are included in top priority essential workers?
Essential workers are defined as those whose jobs cannot be done from home and whose jobs are necessary for a functioning society. Because of this, they will be in a priority group for vaccination.
Essential workers include: first responders (firefighters, police), teachers and educational support staff, food and agricultural workers, manufacturers, correctional workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, public transit workers, and grocery store workers.
Is there an alert system to tell me when I can be vaccinated?
Because vaccine distribution has been
left up to the states, the best answer to this question would be found on your local public health agency website or with your primary care physician. Some states, such as New York, are planning to create a website where you can check your eligibility, and others, such as Maryland, will allow residents to preregister for the vaccine via their state's existing immunization information system. On the other hand, some counties in Florida and Oklahoma are using online RSVP systems such as EventBrite and SignUpGenius—usually used for parties and events—to sign people up.
How are doses allocated to states?
an NPR article from November 2020, the government chose to allocate the first shipments of coronavirus vaccines based on population. This ignored a CDC proposal to distribute them instead based on high-risk groups.
How does dose distribution work?
Distribution of the vaccine started 24 hours after the first Emergency Use Authorization. Each week on Tuesdays, allocation lists are made available to states and jurisdictions to order from. Shipments then take place the following Monday. These orders won’t necessarily arrive all at once, but throughout the week. Sites get delivery notifications from private shipping partners.
How many people have been vaccinated so far?
The up-to-date numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations can be found on the
CDC COVID Data Tracker website. As of Jan. 9, 2021, a total of 6,688,231 had received the first dose of one of the two vaccines, and 22,137,350 doses had been distributed.
Where will I be able to get vaccinated?
Vaccines are being administered through doctors, pharmacies, health centers, state and local health departments, and travel clinics. As previously mentioned, vaccinations are being handled locally and this information varies from place to place, so for the most accurate and personalized information, visit
vaccines.gov—the website from the Department of Health and Human Services—or your local health department’s website.
How does the new coronavirus mutation affect current vaccines?
At the end of 2020, two new coronavirus mutations were identified from South Africa and the United Kingdom. As of Jan. 8, 2021, a study showed that the
Pfizer vaccine would still be effective against these mutations. However, as these mutations are new, scientists are still learning about them. In addition, as the virus continues to spread, new mutations may occur, and scientists do not know how they will respond to the vaccine.
Why did the UK change its dosing strategy?
U.K. has decided to prioritize getting people their first doses of the vaccines before giving people the second doses. This means that people could wait up to 12 weeks between doses. They have chosen to do this because numbers of positive cases are rising sharply and, according to U.K. officials, “At this stage of the pandemic, prioritizing the first doses of vaccine for as many people as possible on the priority list will protect the greatest number of at risk people overall in the shortest possible time.” Scientists are split on whether this is a good strategy.
What other vaccines are in the pipeline?
There are a
large number of other vaccines in the pipeline. Along with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, there is an AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been approved in some countries such as the U.K. and India. There are seven other vaccines in early or limited use, 20 in Phase 3 trials, 20 in Phase 2 trials, and 40 in Phase 1 trials.
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