Coronavirus Vaccines: The latest

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ESSEX and the South East are two of the areas in England suffering most from the mutated strain of Coronavirus which has led to another countrywide lockdown. However, vaccinations have already started and doctors’ surgeries and vaccination centres are currently rolling these out to the most vulnerable groups in society.  

The UK reported its first case of coronavirus on January 29, 2020. Since then, the UK has recorded over 77,000 deaths from the virus and has infected over 2.84 million people in this country alone. The one constant during this pandemic has been the anticipation of a vaccine and when it will arrive. 

Multiple pharmaceutical companies have thrown their hats into the ring, all trying to develop a vaccine with the first clinical trials beginning less than three weeks after the COVID-19 strain was discovered in Wuhan, China.  

After months of countries locking down their people to keep them safe from the virus and death tolls climbing around the globe, the UK was the first country in the world to authorise and administer a vaccine from the joint efforts of pharmaceutical company Pfizer and Biotechnology company BioNTech 

There are two main vaccines that are being focused on at the moment in the UK. The first of these is a joint effort from an American based pharmaceutical company Pfizer and a German biotechnology company BioNTech. This vaccine was the first in the world to be authorised for use and rolled out to citizens in the United Kingdom.  

The Pfizer vaccine achieved a 95% effectiveness in the third phase of clinical trials and will need to be stored at temperatures between minus 70 and minus 80 degrees Celsius. The Government has ordered a total of 40 million doses of this vaccine which is enough to vaccinate a total of 20 million people as the vaccine needs to be administered twice. However, the Government has changed the period of time between doses from three weeks to 12 weeks in order to insure that as many people can be vaccinated as quickly as possible.  

The second of the vaccines now being delivered in this country is another joint development, provided by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which was recently approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Once again, this requires two doses which will be delivered up to 12 weeks apart.

Whilst no vaccine is 100 percent effective there have been a very small amount of side effects recorded from the trials done so far, other than the expected short-lived fatigue and headaches. One of the differences between the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine is that whilst the former drug needs ultra-cold storage between minus 70 and minus 80 degrees, the latter is easier to store and remains stable below minus 20 degrees for up to six months and can be kept in a standard fridge for up to a month. This is a major talking point when discussing the logistics of how to deliver the vaccine to places such as care homes as they are unlikely to have suitable conditions to store the Pfizer vaccine.  

The Government’s aim is to immunise 13 million people by mid-February and it is believed that the army will assist with the distribution of the drug in the hope of achieving the target of vaccinating two million people per-week.   

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Joshua Candler-Jones

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