Around the world, thousands of scientists and researchers have been working at a fast pace this year to bring vaccines to market that can help prevent COVID-19. What do you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine right now? Learn the latest below.
When will a COVID-19 vaccine be available?
As of today, the FDA has not approved any vaccine for COVID-19. The companies that have had successful clinical trials for their vaccines are applying for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA. An EUA lets the FDA approve treatments or vaccines faster than the normal amount of time it takes to go through the approval process. The vaccines are carefully assessed by the FDA. If they are approved, they’ll be produced in large amounts, and then distributed.
Some vaccines may be ready by late December 2020 for healthcare workers and high-risk people. Other vaccines will be available in the next 1 to 2 months. The vaccines may not be ready for widespread use until Spring 2021.
How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?
The COVID-19 vaccines are made differently from traditional vaccines. They don’t expose you to any real virus. They’re not made with dead or weak virus. Instead, they’re made from messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA). This is a type of molecule that gives instructions about how to make different kinds of proteins. The mRNA in the vaccines tells your cells how to make a harmless piece of a protein called a spike protein. This protein is found on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Your immune system sees this spike protein as a threat, and creates antibodies against it. It will help your body’s immune system recognize to fight the real virus if it ever shows up. It’s kind of like recognizing someone by the hat they wear. Your body is then prepared to spot COVID-19 and fight it off before it grows in your body’s cells.
How are the COVID-19 vaccines approved for safety?
The vaccines were tested first in animals. They were then tested in a series of clinical trials that included thousands of people. All of the data from these tests is collected and submitted to the FDA and other scientific groups. These committees of scientists and public health experts carefully look at the data to see if a vaccine is safe and effective. The FDA then assesses the EUA request for a vaccine. If the vaccine meets the FDA’s strict standards of safety and quality, the agency tells the vaccine company they can make the vaccine for emergency use.
Vaccines have typically taken longer to be approved and come to market. But over many years of creating vaccines, research groups and public health agencies have been making the vaccine process work faster. For COVID-19, a special program called Operation Warp Speed (OWS) was created to help get COVID-19 vaccines ready even more quickly. OWS is a partnership of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Defense, and many medical research and manufacturing groups. These organizations agreed to work together as closely as possible to communicate and move through a robust process to develop safe COVID-19 vaccines more quickly. Learn more about Operation Warp Speed.
How might the COVID-19 vaccines help?
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you from getting ill with the disease. But the vaccines may also cause more widespread changes. The more people who get the COVID-19 vaccine, the more local and regional policies may change about what types of businesses can be open and how people can gather together. Schools may be back in session in person faster. Workplaces may reopen. Events may be allowed, travel may resume for many people, and it may be easier to see family and friends.
Important things to know about the COVID-19 vaccines
Should you get the COVID-19 vaccine?
People have a lot of questions about the vaccine for themselves. Should you get it? If so, when? What are the possible risks and benefits to you? The best way to answer these questions is to talk with your healthcare provider. They can let you know when and what kind of vaccine is available, and what you should consider.
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Online Medical Reviewer: Watson, L Renee, RN, MSN