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MECHANISM OF ACTION
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the first-ever approved ones that use RNA to generate an immune response! Here's how they work:
1. Once injected, the vaccine carries copies of the mRNA to make the spike protein present in the COVID -19 virus. mRNA is like the biological blueprint/recipe that the COVID-19 virus would normally use to replicate.
2. The mRNA is engulfed by our bodies' dendritic cells - a type of immune cell that processes foreign material. After engulfing the mRNA particle, they use it to create copies of the COVID-19 spike protein.
3. Once the protein particles are created, the dendritic cell will present these foreign particles on their surface to another type of immune cell known as the T cell.
4. T cells can develop an immune response to the protein. If someone gets exposed to the COVID-19 virus, the immune system is prepared to fight the infection and prevents the virus from entering our bodies' cells.
TIMELINE OF DEVELOPMENT
The COVID-19 vaccine was developed fast, and it's understandable to have some concerns about the safety of a new vaccine. However, the steps taken to develop this vaccine quickly still ensure complete safety.
PRECLINICAL & PHASE I TRIALS: 1-10 years
PHASE 2 CLINICAL TRIALS: 2-3 years
PHASE 3 CLINICAL TRIALS: 2-4 years
An additional few years are necessary to go through the regulatory approval process and scale-up manufacturing and distribution infrastructure
PRECLINICAL & PHASE I TRIALS: 2-3 months
PHASE 2 CLINICAL TRIALS: 2-4 months
PHASE 3 CLINICAL TRIALS: 6-9 months
Vaccines were proven to be safe in animals quickly, so human testing commenced rapidly. There are two main reasons that allowed the COVID-19 vaccine to be developed quickly:
1. Because of the high amount of infection due to the pandemic, finding individuals to participate in clinical studies was not time-consuming.
2. Manufacturing, storage, and distribution mechanisms were built before a vaccine was found, taking away the time needed to create infrastructure.
DISTRIBUTION OF VACCINE
The CDC recommends that states distribute the vaccine domestically in various phases:
Phase 1A: Healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents.
Phase 1B: Frontline essential workers and people aged 75 years and older.
Phase 1C: People aged 65-74 and people aged 16-64 with underlying medical conditions.
Phase 2: People aged 16 and over who are not in phase 1 and are recommended for vaccination.
The wealthiest countries have secured large quantities of vaccines whereas almost 90% of the world has almost no access to the vaccines. The COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) coordinated by the World Health Organization aims at global equitable access to vaccines by distributing 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 to all participating countries.
COMMON VACCINE MYTHS
Myth 1: The COVID-19 vaccine is not safe bc it was developed rapidly.
Fact: Pharmaceutical companies invested higher into COVID-19 vaccine development due to the severity of the disease, allowing for it to be developed faster. This does not mean companies bypassed safety protocols.
Myth 2: I already had COVID-19 so I don't need the vaccine
Fact: There is not enough information available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from re-infection. People should not get vaccinated if in quarantine after exposure to or have symptoms of COVID-19. Those that had COVID-19 should delay vaccination until approximately 90 days from diagnosis.
Myth 3: COVID-19 vaccines have severe/permanent side effects
Fact: Side effects are short-term, mild, or moderate reactions that resolve without complication or injury. The side effects are indicators that your immune system is responding to the vaccine.
Myth 4: More people will die as a result of the COVID-19 vaccine than would die from the virus.
Fact: Circulating on social media is a myth that COVID-19's mortality rate is 1-2% and that people should not be vaccinated against a virus with a high survival rate. A 1% mortality rate is 10x more lethal than the seasonal flu. Furthermore, you cannot get COVID-19 infection from the COVID-19 vaccines.
Myth 5: The COVID-19 vaccine injects microchip tracking tech into our brains.
Fact: There is NO vaccine microchip and the vaccine will not track people or gather personal info into a database. This myth was started after comments made by Bill Gates about a digital certificate of vaccine records. This technology was not a microchip and has not been implemented in any manner or tied to the development, testing, or distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.