20—JAN—2021 11:20 GMT
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his was written to reflect the latest vaccine update and status on 28th December 2020. Live updates on the vaccine can be monitored here with individual information of each vaccine.

Background:

How Was It Developed So Quickly?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted nearly a year ago, there are currently 68 vaccine studies in trial. The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates this to ensure that the vaccines are effective and safe. This is conducted through rigorous clinical trials. Then, it is further assessed to determine how well they will work in the real world (taking into account that real world conditions do not mimic the well-controlled and finely-tuned conditions of a laboratory).

Contrary to popular belief, no corners were actually cut to shorten the development time. Instead, a new regulatory method known as the "rolling review" was implemented whereby information from a still ongoing trial are made available as soon as they’re ready. Unlike in conventional vaccines, where the data is only released at the end of the trial, which made the regulatory process longer.

With the current state of emergency worldwide, the dire need for a vaccine has enabled the process to be accelerated as researchers are now able to bypass bureaucratic processes for funding and resources. Aided by a strong public desire to help, it was also easier to recruit trial participants. Also, the researchers did not actually start from scratch. They are backed with decades of studies and work on vaccines done in the past. For example, the mRNA vaccine has been previously studied for the flu virus, Zika, Rabies, Cytomegalovirus as well as a potential candidate to be used against cancer cells.

It should be celebrated that advancement in science and technology has enabled vaccine production to commence and be made safe for mass consumption - all within a year.

What is the difference: Pfizer/BioNTech vs Moderna vs Oxford/AstraZeneca

Ingredients and how they work:

It is completely valid to wonder what goes into the vaccine that goes into your body, be it for dietary or religious reasons. "Scandalous" ingredients had been used in previous vaccines include aluminium, and squalene (oily substance derived from shark livers, also widely used as a skincare product).

The ingredients in the aforementioned COVID-19 vaccines are as boring and plain as ingredients found in your own kitchen, such as salt and sugar. Each ingredient added plays a purposeful role which is vital for the vaccine’s efficacy.

You do not need a degree in immunology to understand how vaccines work. We will try to break it down for you here:

Firstly, the active component (the antigen), is NOT the virus itself, it is, however a small fragmented part of the organism or a weakened form of the organism which is not dangerous. This is so that the body can learn the specific way to fight it without you getting severely ill. It is like a cheat sheet or a training course for the body to mount an immune response toward the coronavirus so that when you are exposed to the virus (in its "wild" form), you are already equipped with the antibodies (cells that fight against the virus, kind of like your built in weapon) to fend it off (1).

It is also worth highlighting the rising star of vaccines that is Pfizer's Comirnaty or Moderna's mRNA-1273, the mRNA vaccine, uses a different approach. This vaccine provides the steps for our cells to make what is called a "spike protein" and despite the name, it is harmless. After injection, the body makes the protein, then breaks down the instructions and gets rid of it (so it does not stay in your body for long!).

Afterwards the cell displays the protein piece on its surface, our immune system recognises that the protein is a foreign item that doesn't belong there. Subsequently, they begin building an immune response and make antibodies. This results in our bodies learning how to protect against future infections without having to risk the consequences of getting sick with COVID19 (2).

Other ingredients in the vaccine include lipids (fats) which act as a vehicle to carry the mRNA in a small spherical shell. Potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride (table salt), and dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate are added to maintain pH and stability of the vaccine. Sucrose, a form of sugar is also used as a stabiliser (1). These ingredients are basic and common. Rest assured, they do not alter your DNA or track your location ;)

References

  1. How do vaccines work?. (2020). Retrieved 27 December 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/how-do-vaccines-work

  2. COVID-19 and Your Health. (2020). Retrieved 28 December 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mRNA.html

  3. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine VRBPAC Briefing Document. (2021). Retrieved 28 December 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/media/144245/download#page=41

  4. Marson, A. (2000). Bell's palsy. Western Journal Of Medicine, 173(4), 266-268. doi: 10.1136/ewjm.173.4.266