Is there a COVID19 vaccine?

Pfizer and BioNTech have created the first effective coronavirus vaccine which has shown to prevent more than 90% of people from catching the virus, and thus stops individuals suffering from the symptoms. This is achieved after a second dose. The vaccine has so far been tested on 43,500 people in six different countries and so far no safety concerns have been found. The companies are planning to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month (November) in order to get it into public rotation as soon as possible. It is believed that a vaccine will allow the restrictions imposed throughout the world to be lifted as people will no longer needed to social distance or self isolate.

Although there are several companies working on vaccinations, and around a dozen in phase 3 trial which is the final stages of testing, this is the first to seemingly show any results. It uses an experimental approach of injecting part of the virus's genetic code in order to prime the immune system. The body as a result creates antibodies, which are a shorter term reaction to fight the virus, and T cells which are longer term and remain in the body.

The companies believe they will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of the year, and mass produce to 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. However, there are some logistical issues with the transportation of this throughout the world as the vaccine has to be kept in cold storage below minus 80C. The UK should be receiving 10 million doses by the end of the year with a further 30 million doses already ordered. Highest priority will obviously be given to those at highest risk of COVID-19 and hospital / care home staff. The issues with mass production and transportation, mean social distancing and face masks will probably stay in rotation until way after the world receives the first dose to help tackle the virus.

Questions remain around the vaccine: 

  • Does the vaccine work effectively in higher risk people such as the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions?

  • How long does the immunity, including the T cell count, last?

  • Does it stop spreading the virus or just from developing the symptoms?