COLORADO — As vaccine distribution gets underway in Colorado, a lot of information is out there on what's in the vaccine, how it works, and who gets it.
There are several candidates in the U.S. under "Operation Warp Speed", which is an expedited effort to get a vaccine issued to the American people with the Department of Health and Human Services. Four of the main candidates include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer (BioNTech).
Moderna and Pfizer so far have been approved for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are expected to seek emergency approval within the first couple of months of 2021.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , vaccines undergo the same rigorous approval process with the FDA as any other vaccine. Details of the approval process can be found here: FDA information.
How does the vaccine work?
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use mRNA in their vaccine, not a form of the live virus. The mRNA tells the cells to create a spike protein, similar to what's found on the surface of the virus. After the protein is made, the cell breaks down, and your immune system creates a response similar to fighting off the actual virus.
Both vaccines require two doses, which is not uncommon for vaccines. It helps with how effective the vaccine is. The first shot can lay the groundwork and introduce the response to your body and the second shot creates the added protection in your system.
Pfizer's vaccine requires the second dose after 21 days. Moderna requires the second dose after 28 days.
One of the biggest differences between the vaccines is storage requirements. Pfizer requires ultra-cold storage of the vaccine between -60 to -80 degrees Celcius.
Currently, Colorado is in Phase 1-A of the distribution process with both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being given to health care workers. The first phase includes health care workers with direct contact with COVID-19 patients, long term care facility residents and employees, and healthcare workers with less contact to COVID-19 patients.
Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
High-risk individuals will likely receive the vaccine in the spring, with the general public expected to receive it in the summer.
CDC says limited availability and storage requirements will likely mean people getting the vaccine will not be able to choose which specific vaccine is given to them.