When Pfizer, Moderna vaccines might be available and the genetic science behind how they work

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In a year when each turn of the calendar brought more bad news, recent announcements that two coronavirus vaccines are over 90% effective are rare good news.

Moderna and Pfizer both revealed promising results this month for mRNA vaccine candidates the two companies are developing.

Moderna, who has worked with scientists at the National Institutes of Health, said on Monday that his vaccine was 94.5% effective against SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said preliminary results show its COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective.

For this week’s FAQ on Friday, we’re answering questions about COVID-19 vaccines, the results of which have yet to be peer reviewed.

When will the vaccines be available?

Pfizer said on Friday it had asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency clearance for its vaccine. The FDA and an independent committee will then make a recommendation. Moderna is expected to do the same soon.

The vaccines could be approved and ready for distribution in December, said Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services.

Federal and state officials say the first people in line to be vaccinated are frontline health workers, first responders, people in long-term care facilities and others considered to be at high risk.

The general public could start receiving the vaccines as two injections in the spring or summer of 2021.

How long would COVID-19 vaccines protect against disease?

Early data on both vaccines shows they work better than many had hoped. What we don’t know is how long vaccines protect people. This knowledge will only come with time.

A recent study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, has shown that immunity to COVID-19 could last for years. The immune memory study shows that eight months after infection, most people have enough immune cells to defend themselves against the virus.

“This amount of memory would probably prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized illness, serious illness, for many years,” said Shane Crotty, one of the study leaders and virologist at the Institute of La Jolla immunology. York Times.

If the body can produce long-lasting immunity to the virus, that bodes well for vaccines and could mean it won’t be like the flu vaccine that has to be developed every year to keep up with the rapidly changing virus.

What is mRNA technology?

While mRNA technology has been around for decades, it has rushed to the front of the pack in the race to create a vaccine against a virus that disease scientists were unaware of around the same time last year.

Development of a vaccine normally takes years and is often done using dead or inactive parts of a virus.

An mRNA vaccine introduces a genetic code for viral antigens that could teach the body’s immune system to respond to the virus.

“This is the largest scientific experiment in vaccinology ever,” Andrew Ward, structural biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, told the Washington Post. “It literally tests all the different technologies, and it’s going to be cool to see how it all plays out. “

If you have a question you haven’t seen covered in the Seattle Times cover, ask it at st.news/coronavirus-questions or via the form below.

Have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

Ask in the form below and we’ll look for answers. If you are using a mobile device and you don’t see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.

Learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic


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