The global scientific community stepped up to the plate this month in accomplishing one of the most important and impressive medical developments in recent history. On November 9, Pfizer-BioNTech announced a COVID-19 vaccine with a reported 95 percent efficacy in preventing contraction.
These advancements are awe-inspiring considering they come only a year after the advent of COVID-19, and the scientific community has never before had a vaccine for COVID-19. This vaccine also comes at an extremely critical time: in total, over 300,000 people are dying of the virus each day in the United States, and nearly 2 million have been killed worldwide. Even more pressing, as cases have been spiking in the states, ICU beds are decreasing in availability, reducing the ability for healthcare workers to treat those affected.
On December 11, the FDA cleared Pfizer-BioNTech for the vaccine's emergency use, and Pfizer administered the first doses on December 14. The vaccine will first be rolled out to healthcare workers and the most at-risk populations. This distribution will first be a joint effort between the CDC, FDA, and local healthcare officials in highly affected areas.
Looking specifically into the vaccines and how they are used: the Pfizer vaccine is administered via muscle injection and can only be stored at a temperature –94°F (–70°C). It requires two separate doses. It is based mainly on a genetic molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) and builds a spike coronavirus. After injection, the vaccine creates spike proteins, which are released into the body.
Considering the implications of this vaccine is essential. This vaccine is a crucial step on the way towards normality and restoring public health. We have to understand that it will take time; there are estimates that it will begin to be offered to the public in early spring 2021, but it will take a great deal of time for the numbers of people to receive it to decrease virality rates.
Many challenges will be posed to the effective implementation of this virus across America. The cold conditions required for storage will hinder efforts in low-income areas. Anti-vaxxers will also pose a significant challenge - those that disagree with vaccination and those who may fear treatment after the government handles the pandemic. Assuaging these fears will be critical in making sure the vaccine reaches its full potential in saving lives.
Outside of all this news and reporting, we want to acknowledge the scientists who developed these vaccines, along with the healthcare workers that have saved millions of lives. We thank them for all they have done and will continue to do.