On December 11th, 2020, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization, or EUA, of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19, as well as approving the Moderna vaccine, and over the past month, the American public has witnessed the slow progress of the first vaccines being delivered to frontline workers. However, with the vaccine being produced in a matter of months, some people continue to question whether or not it is actually effective. Meanwhile, the vaccination dispensing is taking longer than the Trump administration hoped it would. The Trump administration routinely promised that by the end of 2020, a hundred million Americans would be vaccinated against COVID-19, but on January 4th, 2021, the New York Times reported that only 4.6 million people have been vaccinated, falling far short of the president’s promises and leaving many wondering what is going to happen as president-elect Biden takes office and continues Operation Warp Speed, the official plan to combine resources from the government and other entities to get the vaccine out in a timely, effective manner.
In response to a wave of uncertainty about the vaccine, particularly regarding the potential for allergic reactions and side effects, the CDC has provided much information on how the vaccine works. The COVID vaccine works differently than traditional vaccines that use a weakened version of a virus because it is an mRNA vaccine, which, rather than directly introducing the virus, only provides instructions to make a core protein of the virus called the spike protein. Using these proteins is far faster than cultivating and weakening a whole virus, which is a factor of why the vaccine was developed so quickly. This also has implications for future vaccine development, like the idea that one vaccination could protect against many diseases. Some people have reported side effects from the COVID vaccine in the meantime, and this appears to be because the spike protein is displayed on the surface of a cell and the body recognizes that it is foreign and creates immunity to it, similar to how a traditional vaccine works.
There is a lot of concern about the aforementioned side effects, to the point that some people would refuse a vaccine, but the CDC assures that this is a normal sign that it is working. Common side effects include pain at the injection site, fever, chills, tiredness, and a headache. However, if symptoms do not appear to be going away after a few days or redness and swelling around the injection site increases after twenty-four hours, a medical professional should be contacted. It has been noted that symptoms appear more often after the second injection.
On top of fears about side effects, vaccine rollout is going slower than predicted. There was a delay in shipments reported from all across the country as soon as December 17th, less than a week after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were sent for shipment. Iowa and Missouri reported at least thirty percent of the expected doses weren’t available, while Illinois reported that they may receive only half of what they expected. The governor of Nebraska was told the deliveries for the state would be pushed to the end of December. Pfizer reported shipping all of the doses they were told to ship by the federal government and stated they were awaiting more orders. With that explanation refuted, it’s unclear what the causes of these delays are, although the extreme temperatures that mRNA vaccines must be stored at could be a factor.