On Dec. 11, the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, was granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One week later, the Moderna vaccine was approved, with both available for use in the United States. The FDA states that the Pfizer vaccination should only be taken by those who are 16 years old or older. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that the Moderna drug should only be taken by those 18 years or older.
Dr. Mimi Vanoyan, a practicing OB GYN at Piedmont Hospital, has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. “I think right now we don’t know when the vaccine will be available to the general public. My guess would be sometime in the late spring, or early summer; it just depends on what happens with the rollout over the next four to six weeks,” she said.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have mild side effects, but are already proving to be quite successful in defending frontline workers and the elderly against the coronavirus. The most common side effects post-vaccination are chills and headaches, but otherwise, there have been no major detrimental impacts. Both drugs require two doses. The Pfizer vaccination must be taken three weeks apart, whereas the Moderna drug is four weeks. Pfizer and Moderna are insisting that two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination are required, with recent studies, indicating that one dosage is not enough to fully protect against the virus.
Dr. Amy Mininberg currently practices internal medicine at Piedmont Hospital. “I have only received the first dose, and I have received the Moderna vaccine,” she said. “I had no side effects other than soreness at the site of injection, which is expected because it is an intramuscular injection.”
As more people are being vaccinated, scientists are able to collect more data and develop a deeper understanding of the success of the vaccine; however, citizens are being encouraged to wear a mask even if they have already been vaccinated. “Although it might not be medically necessary for a person to wear a mask after they have been vaccinated, I do think they should continue wearing masks until the majority of the population has been vaccinated,” said Mininberg. According to the CDC, both vaccines are about 95% effective in their protection against COVID-19. Also, there is a possibility that those who have been vaccinated could be carriers of the coronavirus and spread it to other people.
The United States government and Pfizer reached an agreement in December of last year, in which 200 million doses would be delivered to the United States and further distributed to hospitals around the country. Moderna is also hoping to provide the government with 200 million doses by the end of June; however, according to CNBC, they are maintaining a global focus, hoping to manufacture one billion doses by the end of 2021. As of Jan. 31, according to The New York Times, since the initial release of the vaccine, there has been an average of 1.3 million doses issued each day in the United States.
Although vaccines have arrived, new problems continue to arise. In recent news, more contagious variants of the virus has been discovered, originating in the United Kingdom and South Africa. According to Forbes, as of Jan. 29, the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has reached the United States and cases have already been discovered across 28 states, including Georgia. Right now, scientists believe that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be effective in defending against these variants.
Another issue that has emerged since the release of the vaccine is the distribution of the Moderna and Pfizer doses. Hospitals in each state were given the ability to decide who can be treated with the vaccination first and the urgency with which a patient may receive the vaccine. According to NPR, Stanford Medicine, in Palo Alto, CA, decided to give the vaccine to faculty who had been operating remotely, and excluded the medical residents who were in charge of caring for those in the COVID-19 ward. As a result, protests arose from the frontline medical professionals, who demanded that the administration consider their safety and health as a priority.
Another issue that has arisen is the successful distribution of the second dose of the vaccine within the proper time frame. If both doses are not administered within the one month period, then the primary dose is not as strong to defend against COVID-19. More doses are being actively released, so officials are hopeful that everyone will be able to properly receive both doses.
Even though people are getting vaccinated and developing immunity, officials still believe that there will be more cases in the coming weeks, especially with the more contagious variants spreading throughout the U.S. As we begin 2021, record high cases and deaths are being recorded across the United States. “I believe there’s probably going to be a continuing surge of COVID-19 at least for the next four to eight weeks,” said Vanoyan. Most of that is the fallout from the holidays. Relief isn’t expected until the vaccine response gets really ramped up.”