COVID-19 Vaccine – Development and Safety

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COVID-19 vaccine is now being distributed to Utahns over the age of 70, along with healthcare workers and educators. Unfortunately, demand has exceeded supply, but that is slowly changing.

We know there are several new vaccines moving towards approval – J&J Janssen, AstraZeneca, , and Novavax vaccines are all in final stages of trials or seeking Emergency Use Approval.

Janssen and AstraZeneca COVID vaccines are both similar to the earlier vaccines, except they use a non-infecting Adenovirus (common cold virus) to transport the genetic material that will make the COVID spike protein that will trigger the immune response. The virus was modified so that it can enter cells and create an immune response, but can’t replicate inside the cell or cause illness. One of the  reported advantages of the Janssen vaccine is that it is a single dose, meaning people don’t have to return.

Janseen is reporting a 72% effectiveness, 85% effective against severe disease with no major safety concerns. AstraZeneca is reporting a 76% effectiveness with one dose and higher with two doses with no major safety concerns.

It is important to remember that those who are vaccinated are still urged to wear masks, social distance, and wash their hands often. Continued adherence to COVID safety guidelines will be key to getting infections under control.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 uses a spike protein to insert itself into a person’s cells so it can then it can replicate itself and continue to infect the person. All the vaccines in development work to interrupt this spike protein process.

By replicating that delivery mechanism, the vaccine trains the body to mount an immune response to prevent the attachment of the spike proteins. The immune system produces the natural antibodies that prevents the virus from inserting itself into a person’s cells.

And because the virus is never present, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

These vaccines are being developed under an Emergency Use Approval (EUA) process to speed the development and production process, but that does not mean steps are being skipped or safety is compromised. The same phased trials have also been conducted as would be done with any vaccine. Over 43,000 people were involved in the Janssen vaccine trial and 60,000 will be in the AstraZeneca trials, including people right here in Utah.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (or VRBPAC) is an independent group the evaluate the safety and efficacy (or how well a vaccine protects a person) data involved in any vaccine development, and they are going through the same process they would with any vaccine. Both vaccines have to be approved by the FDA as advised by VRBPAC before they can be used.

For more information you can visit the Utah Department of Health website.

This article contains sponsored content.

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