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Everything You Need to Know About the New Covid-19 Vaccines

As you’ve probably heard by now, there are two prospective COVID-19 vaccines that are in the process of approval for public use. Great news, right?? We can take our masks off? Well…in reality, it’s going to be a bit more complicated than that.

The first vaccine produced by Pfizer is said to have a 90% efficiency rate, while the other vaccine developed by Moderna claims to have an even higher rate of 94.5%. This means that the chances to be infected by the virus are at least under 10%, which is great news considering the rate of infection can get up to 95% if you are not wearing a mask near an infected individual.

Both vaccines work on the function of viral mRNA, which encodes a critical piece of the virus’s protein. When the mRNA is inserted into the patient’s arm, their muscle cells will produce the virus proteins in order for the body’s immune system to be able to recognize the real deal if the human is infected with COVID-19. The benefit of this type of vaccine is that the patient does not receive any complete version of the virus, weakened or alive, which could cause adverse side effects.

two test tubes in blue holder
Photo by Martin Lopez from Pexels

Production-wise, an mRNA vaccine is much more efficient. Similarly to the flu vaccine, which adapts each year to the many mutated strains, these COVID-19 vaccines would have the ability to be altered and administered in a short period of time if a new strain is discovered. Additionally, these vaccines take advantage of the human body as injecting mRNA to be translated into a protein is much quicker and more efficient than harvesting pre-existing proteins and inserting those into patients.

In terms of the shelf life, the Moderna vaccine appears to be much more resilient. It is said to be able to last up to 6 months in the temperatures of home freezers, and 30 days in a normal refrigerator. On the other hand, the Pfizer vaccine can only remain viable in extremely cold temperatures of dry ice, which makes shipping and storage slightly more complicated.

Before anyone can line up to get this vaccine at their local pharmacy, there are still regulations that need to be met. The Food and Drug Administration must first approve of the vaccine, which is projected to occur in mid-December. Once finalized, the vaccine will become available to front-line workers, like doctors, nurses, and EMT’s.

Pille-Riin Priske via Unsplash

It is still unknown when the general public will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Until the majority of the population is vaccinated, masks will most likely still be mandatory, and social distancing will still be enforced. At this rate, it seems like mask culture will be around for at least another year in order to prevent transmission to the at-risk members of the population.

While the news of a vaccine is definitely exciting and promising, don’t forget to keep doing your part by being mindful of others. Keep your masks on in public places, avoid large crowds, and just remember that the future is looking bright!

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Karen Hareli

U Mass Amherst '22

Karen is a junior at UMass Amherst pursuing a Biochemistry degree with a Psychology minor. In her free time she loves to cook, workout, draw and paint, explore new restaurants, and most importantly play with her adorable cat, Leena.
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