Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine Once It's Available? This Is What You Need To Know
As the world rushes to gain immunity from the deadly novel coronavirus, have the right information on hand and know the right questions to ask
Two weeks from today, the Philippines will have been on continuous lockdown for nine months.
Filipinos have born the brunt of one of the world's longest uninterrupted quarantine periods, and with many of their neighbors in the reinstating strict lockdown rules that were lifted when COVID curves were (seemingly) flattened in the summer, the whole world looks like it's going to be in this dreadful place for a while longer.
How much longer the global population has to power through living life mostly indoors and with limited contact with loved ones, access to work, opportunities to unwind, and contracted budgets, no one can say with certainty.
However, a ray of light comes in the form of not one, but three pharmaceutical companies that have given humanity its best chances of reaching the pandemic's finish line: Moderna, followed by Pfizer, and most recently, AstraZeneca, are all at the forefront of the race of developing the first COVID-19 vaccine that will be ready for global distribution and administration come 2021.
Below is everything you should know about the ongoing vaccine mission.
According to The New York Times, there are at least 50 vaccines that have made it to clinical trials involving people, and 13 of them have made it to the final testing stage as of November 24, Tuesday.
The development of the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the fastest seen in modern history, considering that vaccines traditionally take years and years (sometimes decades) to be fully researched and tested before making their way to your physician's clinic. COVID-19 vaccine development began in just March this year, and already companies are aggressively sharing their claims on the efficacy of their products.
Here's what a typical step-by-step vaccine development process looks like:
1. Pre-clinical testing
Pre-clinical testing sees scientists testing a potential vaccine on cells. If all goes well, scientists move on testing on animals to check if the drug produces the desired or predicted response, while also checking for side effects and unforeseen risks.
2. Phase 1 safety trials
The vaccine is tested on people for the first time, utilizing a very small sample of subjects. The goal here is the same: to check if the drug induces the right responses from the body without harmful consequences.
3. Phase 2 expanded trials
The vaccine is administered to a larger sample size of human test subjects, this time, one with many sub-groups. For example, the vaccine can be tested among children, the elderly, those with a history of cardiovascular disease, those who have contracted COVID-19 and fully recovered from the disease, and so on. Scientists aim to discover whether the vaccine will have different effects on people depending on their biological and medical profiles.
4. Early and limited approval
The vaccine is given the go signal by scientists.
The vaccine is approved for use in the public by health authorities. Note that in this stage, a drug's approval is still very much up to individual country's health regulatory boards. In the Philippines' case, Filipinos will depend on the scientific rigor exercised by the Department of Health in studying trial results (i.e.: failure and success rates, as well as observed side effects) and them discerning whether the vaccine is, indeed, safe for use for all Filipinos.
Learn more about how vaccines go from lab testing to public use here.
Now before Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca made it to headlines for the success of their vaccine trials, China and Russia were the countries to first claim that vaccines they developed were ready for use by the global population.
The biggest problem here was that it was discovered that both countries had skipped Step #3 as mentioned above, which to the casual observer, seems to be the most important in the vaccine development process as it has the potential to reveal if the vaccine has unwanted side effects in humans depending on how old you are, pre-existing health conditions you might have, hereditary diseases you might possess, and other medical predispositions that might alter the vaccine's effects.
Knowing this crucial bit of information could very well spell the difference between you and your family being fully protected from COVID-19 by a safe vaccine, or falling prey to a company distributing a drug that wasn't meant to see the light of day just yet—or ever.
As for the companies whose vaccine development efforts have been most successful, here's what you should know:
- Moderna: Vaccines are 94.5% effective.
- Pfizer: Vaccines are over 90% effective.
- AstraZeneca: Vaccines are 70 to 90% effective.
All three pharmaceutical companies have made it to phase three trials. This National Geographic article talks more about the details of each company's research, both the good and the bad.
As soon as Friday, November 27, the Philippine government, in partnership with members of the private sector, is set to sign a deal with AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, to purchase two million units of vaccines. How much the vaccine will cost per individual, and whether or not the vaccine will be made free for the masses or have different price points depending on Filipinos' socio-economic status has yet to be revealed.
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