COVID-19 Vaccines

Jannah Al Defaaei, Writer

There are two prominent companies in the search and production of a COVID-19 vaccine as of November 2020. The companies are PFizer-BioNTech and Moderna and are currently in phase three of their trials. Both have unexpected, yet very useful results. They are produced a similar way, however their needs differ. This milestone during the pandemic has brought hope and excitement to many. 

The PFizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective, which is surprising because it has a higher effectiveness rate than the Flu vaccine, which is 52% effective. The vaccine shows no safety concerns, but every new vaccine has possible side effects that no one is aware of. However, that is why the trial occurs and the vaccine has to be approved and perfected many times. The main drawback that comes with the PFizer-BioNTech vaccine is the way it has to be stored. In order for the vaccine to be effective, it has to be stored in -70º conditions, which many do not have access to.

“Efficacy was consistent across age, race and ethnicity demographics. The observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age was over 94%,” Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said in a joint statement.

The Moderna vaccine is 94.5% and shares many characteristics with the PFizer-BioNTech vaccine. The Moderna vaccine used many severe cases in their study, which helped them get realistic results. Compared to the PFizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored under strict conditions, as it can be stored in a regular freezer at home. It is also cheaper and easier to manufacture, 

“Pfizer and BioNTech have set the initial price at $19.50 a dose, which comes to $39 per patient” while Moderna has “its price to around $50 per patient or $25 a dose,” a source said. 

Both vaccines use mRNA, a genetic messenger that makes proteins out of a DNA code, which is packaged in a fatty capsule called a lipid nano-particle, allowing it to get into cells. The mRNA interacts with the cell to make a protein, which triggers the immune system. PFizer-BioNTech had two initial vaccines, B1 and B2. The B1 vaccine binds to a receptor which works as its entry way into the cell, as the mRNA is coded for part of the COVID-19 virus. The B2 vaccine is the entirety of the protein, rather than only a section, which is called a spike protein. B2 is more effective because the spike protein has more ways of recognizing the virus. The Moderna vaccine works in a similar way to B2, as the spike protein enters the body and travels into cells, producing more spike proteins. The immune system would learn to recognize the protein and attack it, destroying the virus.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO said. This is a reflection of how many around the world felt upon hearing the news of the vaccines.