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The end of the coronavirus may be in sight. Could this 90% effective vaccine be the cure we've been waiting for?

Is this 90% successful Coronavirus vaccine as good as a cure?

The end of the coronavirus may be in sight. Drug manufacturer Pfizer announced Monday that its coronavirus vaccine is over 90% effective and could be ready for distribution by the end of this year. 

Co-developed by Pfizer & German biotechnology company BioNTech, the vaccine, “BNT162b2,”  is said to have prevented more than 90% of COVID-19 infections in its trial run. 43,000 people have taken the vaccine with zero safety concerns, officially completing the testing process. 

The trial

The trial results were even better than experts had hoped. The RNA-based vaccine was injected into half the trial’s participants – the other half received a placebo. Many of those with the placebo contracted COVID-19. Currently, the study can’t tell how long the benefits of the vaccine will last. 

Though the 90% success rate is a good sign, Eleanor Riley, a professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, issued a word of caution. Riley explained the specific demographics of the trial’s participants are unknown.

Basically, it’s unclear how effective the vaccine will be across different populations. Age groups, race, severity of cases, and other determining factors haven’t been released yet, though BioNTech and Pfizer recently expanded extended trials to include teens & children. 

How vaccines work 

The vaccine injects a portion of the virus’s genetic code into the patients’ cells to train the immune system to attack the virus by producing a spike protein. The immune system then produces antibodies & activates T-cells to destroy infected cells. If the patient comes across COVID-19, the antibodies & T-cells are activated and ready to fight the virus.

Availability

Pfizer says it can provide 50 million doses by the end of this year alone and 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. The UK has ordered 30 million doses and will receive 10 million by the end of 2020. 

But who will be immunized first? Depending on hotspots and availability, those at risk are more likely to get the vaccine first. This includes those over the age of 65 and health care workers. The older someone is, the more likely they are to be vaccinated first. Experts speculate the vaccine will be most widely available next summer. 

Next steps 

While the results of this trial couldn’t come at a better time, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of health policy and of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, realizes this is not a cure-all. “This is a wonderful new addition to the barriers that we put up that will help reduce the spread of this infection, but its only one.” 

Avoiding crowds, hand washing, social distancing, and wearing masks are still crucial in combating this virus. “We cannot abandon the others. We have to do the others even better than we are now,” Schaffner added. 

This trial & treatment isn’t the only one in development. Ten other contenders are in the final stages of testing all around the world. 

What candidates are saying

Both presidential contenders have given statements about the results of this most recent trial in light of the contested and contentious election last week. Joe Biden remained optimistic but indicated that it’s “important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away”. 

“Today’s news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contract tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year,” he continued. Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris met with their newly-announced coronavirus committee on Monday, made up of doctors, scientists, and other experts.

Current U.S. President Donald Trump commented on the convenient timing of the vaccine results, tweeting “As I have long said, @Pfizer and the others would only announce a Vaccine after the Election, because they didn’t have the courage to do it before. Likewise, the @US_FDA should have announced it earlier, not for political purposes, but for saving lives!”

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