While you may be concerned about getting COVID-19 and the risks associated with having the disease, you may also be concerned that any vaccine you agree to take is safe.
Understanding the technology behind Covid vaccines and why the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given Emergency Use Authorization for three Covid vaccines can help you decide if getting a Covid vaccine is right for you.
Covid Vaccine Technology
Currently, there are three Covid vaccines being used with Emergency Use Authorization. The three vaccines are made by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology, and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses viral vector technology.
mRNA vaccines are not new. The first mRNA study was published in the journal Science in 1990. This study was conducted on mice and showed that mRNA technology could create immunity to a virus protein.
Viruses contain proteins that are specific to each virus. mRNA vaccines use a coded framework to instruct your immune system to build a piece of that protein and tell your cells to create immunity against it. Scientists can program the mRNA framework to build immunity against various viruses by coding the mRNA vaccine against a specific virus’s protein.
Viral vector technology has also been studied extensively. According to a Clinical and Vaccine Immunology review, viral vector technology is extensively used in veterinary medicine. Viral vector technology uses a harmless virus that has been modified to tell the body’s cells to create immunity to a harmful virus. The modified virus is known as a vector. Johnson and Johnson already produce a viral vector vaccine against Zika. They used the same technology to create a Covid vaccine.
Unlike previous vaccines for other diseases, mRNA and viral vector vaccines do not use a weakened live or harmful inactive virus. Because the framework and vector for these vaccines have already been developed, it takes less time to create a new vaccine for a specific virus than in the past. Scientists can use the same framework or vector and code it for different viruses as needed.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), all new vaccines must first be tested on animals. A vaccine is then tested for safety and effectiveness in clinical trials on humans based on successful results. Vaccine clinical trials include three phases:
Phase I- A small number of volunteers receive the vaccine to determine initial safety, immune response, and dose.
Phase II- Hundreds of volunteers are given the vaccine to determine safety. During a Phase II clinical trial, not enough people have been given the vaccine to determine its effectiveness. Phase II clinical trials use a vaccinated group and a placebo group that does not receive the vaccine. This allows researchers to monitor outcomes and make comparisons.
Phase III- Thousands of volunteers receive the vaccine. Again, there is a placebo group for comparison. Safety is monitored, and enough people are vaccinated to demonstrate the rate of effectiveness.
In Phase III clinical trials, the Covid vaccine data showed:
Pfizer – Over 40,000 volunteers, over 94% effective, no serious safety concerns reported.
Moderna – Over 30,000 volunteers, over 94% effective, no serious safety concerns.
Johnson and Johnson- 40,000 volunteers, 85% effective, no serious adverse events reported connected to the vaccine.
All three Covid vaccines were very effective against developing symptomatic COVID-19 disease. When a vaccine is authorized for use, researchers continue to gather data from the general pollution about its safety and effectiveness.
Although the Johnson and Johnson Covid vaccine was not as effective as the other two available, it only requires a single dose. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine can also be stored longer at refrigerated and room temperatures, making it a practical option in sparsely populated areas and areas without widespread utilities.
Emergency Use Authorization
According to the FDA, Emergency Use Authorization is only granted to a vaccine if it shows safety in clinical trials and is at least 50% effective. A vaccine must also be needed urgently, as in the case of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers continue to monitor safety and effectiveness after a vaccine is in use. All three current Covid vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorization.
The Covid vaccines have shown safety and effectiveness in large clinical trials. They are currently being used under Emergency Use Authorization.