Newest Vaccine Has Perks, Drawbacks, Weird Quirks

Each new COVID-19 vaccine that has completed its trials has had slightly different results. Thus far, Moderna’s vaccine seems to be leading the pack. It is effective and can be kept frozen at relatively high temperatures compared to Pfizer’s, which needs powerful freezers. The latest vaccine, from AstraZeneca and Oxford Univ. also has perks: it doesn’t have to be frozen, and it’s going to be very inexpensive. The downside is that, while it is effective, it’s not as great as the other two vaccines, and the FDA might not approve it.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be stored between 36- and 46-degrees Fahrenheit — possible with a standard fridge. That makes it far more accessible for many parts of the world. With a global pandemic, you need people to be vaccinated everywhere, or else COVID-19 will always be coming back. While the other two vaccines cost around $20-25 dollars per vaccine shot, AstraZeneca’s costs $2.50. You need two doses of each vaccine, so with one brand, it could cost you $50; with AstraZeneca’s, you would pay $5.

There is a problem, depending on how it is administered, it can be 62 percent effective or 90 percent effective. If people got a lower dose for their first shot and a full amount when they got their second shot, they were much more protected from the virus. On average, that gives the vaccine an efficacy of 70 percent. The yearly flu vaccine is usually 40 to 60 percent effective. However, the flu is nowhere near as deadly as COVID-19, and we have far more effective treatments for the flu. So people are more accepting of a less effective flu vaccine.

The FDA has said a COVID-19 vaccine has to be 50 percent effective to be considered for approval. The researchers think the smaller dose helps best with teaching the body how to react should it encounter the real virus because it can get behind the body’s defenses. The fact that it works better in small doses is confusing, even to scientists. More research is needed to understand it.

Some believe it will never be approved by the FDA because of the questions around it. However, even if it isn’t, it’s still good news for us. If it gets approved in other countries, that may leave more supplies of the Moderna, Pfizer and other potential vaccines for the U.S.

AstraZeneca’s first 100 million doses have already been sold to the UK. They will have 20 million by the end of December and already have four million shipped. We’ll see where they go after reaching their first 100 million; the FDA may accept it after more testing. And, of course, there are still many other vaccines being researched as you read this!

Banner image: Hyttalo Souza via Unsplash
November 25, 2020
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