What COVID-19 Vaccines Mean for a Return to a “Normal” Life

Sadie Conolly, Journalist

The COVID-19 vaccination has been the latest hope for a return to some state of normalcy with reduced use of masks and social-distancing. The hope is that the new production of a vaccine will allow travel, increase social interaction, and open country borders. With the vaccines already being distributed widely across the United States, the primary targeted population to receive them are the consistently exposed healthcare workers such as nurses, specialist surgeons, emergency trauma center workers, general physicians, and Covid test administrators. The second target population is people over the age of 70, especially those already compromised. The implementation of the vaccine will go in phases depending on the state and even county. Each tier of people eligible to receive the vaccine will be allowed to receive it when everyone in the previous vaccination phase has gotten the vaccine. 


It’s important to understand what type of vaccine was created and what the differences are between them. Three new vaccines are in clinical trials, but there are only two approved and distributed vaccines in the United States as of now. The first is the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine, and the second is the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Both are mRNA vaccines. MRNA vaccines target your cells’ protein-producing ribosomes that create the spike proteins that are on the coronavirus itself. The vaccines are intended to have your cells replicate only the virus’s proteins, which is effective because the spike proteins on a SARS-CoV-2 (the covid molecule itself that is a spherical shape) uses those proteins to enter and invade a human cell. By replicating just the proteins, the vaccines allow the body to develop immunity to the virus after detecting the fireign bodies – this is how immunity is produced from the vaccine. 


The differences between the two vaccines are the time between injections (since both vaccines require a second immunization), the age eligible for vaccination, storage needs, and the amount of vaccination given. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is given in two doses, 21 days apart, and is approved for those over 16 years of age. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit and is administered in 30 microgram doses. On the other hand, the Moderna vaccine is given 28 days apart and is intended to be administered to people over the age of 18. It only has to be stored at -4 degrees Fahrenheit and is given in 100 microgram doses. 


While there are differences between the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine, the vaccines share many similarities; the method of mRNA vaccinating that they use is the same. Both produce the same resistance to spike proteins in the body. In phase three clinical testing of the vaccines, both recorded 90% or above rate of efficiency in preventing COVID-19. While the vaccines have not received the same approval rate as other vaccines such as the measles or flu vaccines, both are under what is called An Emergency USe Authorization (EUA), meaning that, in an emergency, the potential benefits greatly outweigh the potential risks. The production of these vaccines in a timely manner will continue to increase our ability to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the drastic changes to normal life.