COVID-19 vaccine

Science, Innovation & COVID-19

A lot can happen in a year.

In January 2020, most of us had never heard of COVID-19. Although headlines from overseas alluded to a highly contagious respiratory virus, the likes of which no one had seen before, the majority of U.S. citizens dismissed it.

On January 27, USA Today published a front-page article about the helicopter crash that killed basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. Had that crash never happened, perhaps more of the newspaper’s real estate that day would have been dedicated to the article that ran alongside it – “Rush Is on to Develop Vaccine for Coronavirus.”

It would take another six weeks or so for words like COVID-19 and corona to become firmly entrenched in our vocabulary, but by mid-March, they were on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Schools shuttered. Businesses closed. The economy came to a grinding halt.

Life hasn’t been the same since.

While much of the world struggled to acclimate to the “new normal”, amazing things were happening in the background. Scientists raced to create a vaccine that would protect us from COVID-19.

Most vaccines take 10-15 years to develop. Two companies, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, did it in nine months.

But the speed at which the vaccines were developed is far from the only impressive fact. Consider the following:

The COVID-19 vaccine uses completely new technology. In the past, vaccines required introducing a weakened or dead strain of the targeted virus into the patient’s body to illicit an immune response. The COVID-19 vaccine uses Messenger RNA to “teach” our cells to make a spike protein found in the coronavirus. Our bodies then recognize that the protein shouldn’t be there and create antibodies against it, protecting us from the virus.

Vaccines are being administered at a record pace. Since December 15, more than 29 million doses have been administered in 43 different countries. The U.S. alone has administered more than nine million, with long-term care facility residents and staff and frontline healthcare workers among the first in line. Nearly 400,000 U.S. residents have received both required doses.

More than 60 additional vaccines are in clinical trials. Although Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech were the first two out of the gate, 64 other vaccines are currently undergoing studies, with 20 already in phase 3 trials.

A lot can happen in a year. A lot has happened this year. And while the end might not yet be in sight, science has helped us turn the corner, and amazing strides are being made every day.

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