By Chadwick Dolgos
In the short time that COVID-19 has been a threat, almost 400 million people worldwide have developed the virus and over one million have died. Scientists and medical experts have been working around the clock to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus, but have been unsuccessful up until recently.
“I think it is important for us to listen to the medical professionals,” said Rep. Anita Kulik, representing Pennsylvania’s 45th legislative district.
“If my doctor would recommend that I receive the vaccine, just as I receive my annual flu shot, I would certainly do so,” she added.
With the potential of a vaccine right around the corner, residents in our readership area remain uncertain if they would get vaccinated immediately. “I wouldn’t get one for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I’m not scared of COVID,” Julie Pulford of Neville Island said, adding “Why inject something into my body?”
While there are many types of vaccine candidates being tested to combat COVID-19, one, in particular, seems to be gaining support from the medical community.
Moderna and Pfizer are testing RNA vaccines as potential candidates against COVID-19.
Coraopolis’ Josh Linner explained he also would not be getting vaccinated immediately. “I’m not at high risk,” he said.
When asked what it would take for him to feel comfortable getting vaccinated, he said, “one year of [the vaccine] being circulated into the public or, God forbid, my immune or respiratory system gets compromised.”
Vaccines operate by training the body to recognize and react to the specific proteins produced by viruses.
RNA vaccines operate a little differently than conventional ones.
They trick the body into producing the viral proteins themselves by injecting “messenger RNA” into the body’s cells to replicate the proteins caused by the virus. They then direct the body to create specific kinds of antibodies.
“Honestly, I like to think I’d get it immediately, but I can’t help but feel nervous that it has long term effects we won’t know about for a while,” said Laura Laquinta of Robinson, who worries about potential side effects.
Some of the side effects reported by Moderna in their trials included headaches, soreness, fatigue, and fever. Long term effects still have yet to be observed.
Experts expect these side effects to be applicable across the board for all COVID-19 vaccine candidates, not solely RNA vaccines.
McKees Rocks resident Tom Ozga also said he would not take the vaccine.
Pfizer will be applying for Emergency Use Authorization for their RNA vaccine once they meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) required milestone of two months of safety data, a requirement for COVID-19 vaccines published by the FDA earlier this month.
This milestone is expected to be met by the third week of November, three weeks later than President Donald Trump’s call for a vaccine to be available before the general election.
One of the major benefits of RNA vaccines is their ability to be produced in a matter of days.
They are much faster to generate than traditional vaccines and can be prepared faster than the seasonal flu shot.
A major setback, however, is RNA vaccines are new, unproven technology.
While they have shown promise in clinical trials involving humans, there are currently no RNA vaccines approved for human use.
While this is likely to change as Pfizer and Moderna continue to reach milestones with their RNA vaccine candidates, there is no evidence that they will work on a global scale.
RNA vaccines need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures to prevent them from decaying. Pfizer and BioNTech’s RNA vaccine, BNT162b2, needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, and will only survive 24 hours in refrigeration temperatures between 35.6 and 46.4 degrees.
This will prove to be problematic for countries that cannot refrigerate large quantities of the vaccine for long periods of time at the extremely cold temperatures required to prevent decay.
Although a vaccine is reportedly on its way, there are still many obstacles experts face when it comes to global distribution.