​What You Should Know About COVID-19 Vaccines

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 27, 2022 # COVID-19, News

COVID vaccineThe global spread of COVID-19 affected every country. The rush to find a vaccine to prevent or decrease the effects of the virus became a priority in several countries. Pharmaceutical companies rose to the challenge. Researchers used previous mRNA studies to develop vaccines that met the World Health Organization's and countries' standards.

Development of Vaccines

Before COVID-19 emerged, researchers at the NIH's Vaccine Research Center (VRC) examined various coronavirus types. Common human coronaviruses are not like COVID-19. Most people will develop a common human coronavirus at least once. The symptoms of common human coronaviruses present as a mild to moderate respiratory or upper respiratory infection. If a person has a common human coronavirus, it doesn't mean they have COVID-19.

The development of new vaccines or medications usually takes years. However, the previous work on common human coronavirus from researchers at the VRC made it easy for researchers worldwide to focus on developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

Since there are several types of coronaviruses, scientists targeted one prototype of coronavirus. The researchers then began to design a vaccine for it. Once the vaccine was created, researchers could then tailor the vaccine to other types of coronaviruses.

Scientists emphasized designing a vaccine that is:

  • Fast. Scientists wanted to create a vaccine that could adapt quickly to a pandemic. Another requirement for the vaccine included the ability to produce doses promptly.
  • Reliable. The vaccine's effectiveness against a coronavirus was a must.
  • Universal. Researchers can't predict which type of coronavirus will become a pandemic, so they needed the vaccine to be effective against various coronaviruses.

The emergence of the COVID-19 virus in China was publicly reported on December 31, 2019. In January 2020, China shared the DNA sequence of COVID-19 with the VRC. The VRC then worked with Moderna to develop a vaccine. Soon Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech created their COVID-19 vaccines.

FDA Response to Vaccines

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson were quick to develop vaccines for COVID-19. Before they could be given to people, they underwent clinical trials and applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval.

The FDA responded to the growing pandemic and the developers of the vaccines by authorizing three COVID-19 vaccines giving them emergency use authorizations (EUA) (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). The Emergency Use Authorization designation allows the FDA to support and strengthen public health protections against environmental, chemical, biological, radiological, and infectious diseases. An EUA means medical countermeasures are available throughout public health crises.

After further use, the FDA approved the use of the Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. However, due to issues with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC's website notes that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were preferable.

Vaccines –such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccinations became available throughout the country. Public health officials and medical professionals throughout the country joined with government agencies to encourage people to vaccinate. In addition, each coronavirus variant brought renewed calls from public health and medical professionals to get COVID-19 vaccine shots and boosters.

International Travel

In October 2021, President Biden released "A Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic." In April 2022, the CDC released "Amended Order: Implementing Presidential Proclamation on Safe Resumption of Global Travel." The CDC's Amended Order reflects the Proclamation's public health requirements for noncitizen immigrants' alignment with the latest after-international travel recommendations. It also provides guidance described on the CDC's website.

For those described in the President's Proclamation to the United States, the following vaccines are accepted or authorized by the FDA:

  • Single dose – Janssen/Johnson & Johnson
  • Two-dose series – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax

The President's Proclamation and the CDC's Amended Order do not apply to citizens of the United States.

Vaccines' Role in Easing COVID-19 Symptoms

Once people could become vaccinated, many individuals scheduled appointments with their doctor, public health office, or another source of the vaccines, and vaccination rates slowly increased. As a result, fully vaccinated people are at a decreased risk of having COVID-19 or its variants. Furthermore, if a fully vaccinated person does contract COVID-19, their symptoms are often less severe than those who aren't vaccinated.

Developments for Vaccines in the Fall of 2022

To reduce the effects of COVID-19 and its emerging variants, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech continue to work on their vaccines. An example of their uninterrupted focus on developing effective vaccines is the introduction of bivalent (the combination of the two vaccines) booster shots.

The FDA has amended, and the CDC has recommended Moderna and Pfizer's EUA to authorize the single dose bivalent booster shot at least two months after a primary or booster shot.

  • The FDA authorized the Moderna COVID-19 Bivalent vaccine for people 18 years of age and above.
  • Pfizer-BioNTech's single dose Bivalent vaccine is authorized for those 12 years old or above.

How to Stay Up to Date

The CDC and the FDA keep their COVID-19 web pages up to date. If you have any questions about current regulations, variants, or vaccines, you can find the answers by accessing their websites. In addition, you can use a search engine for state or local information about COVID-19 regulations, testing, or vaccination availability. For example, the search "New Jersey COVID-19 site" resulted in the state's webpage for COVID-19. Local information can be found at your local public health office or, in some cases, your town or county's website.

Christina Sisti, DPS, MPH, MS, is a bioethicist and health care policy advocate. She works to create awareness and improve healthcare policy for those with long-term health issues.

This publication was supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as part of a financial assistance award totaling $160,000 with 100% funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS or the U.S. government.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.