In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the world look forward to the advent and distribution of vaccines. The vaccination effort for the coronavirus has become the biggest in history as well, and on Friday, December 11th, the FDA granted its first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine to the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate. This means that the FDA now allows the use of this medical product, but only in a life-threatening situation. This vaccine has also been approved in the U.K and Canada. An initial shipment of about 2.9 million doses will be delivered to front-line medical workers across the U.S. within days. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 150 coronavirus vaccines have been in development worldwide. Capable pharmaceutical companies in the U.S., China, the U.K., and Russia have been working on the invention of these vaccines. The first vaccine put into use was the vaccine produced by the company Sinopharm in China, which was inoculated by hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians since July for emergency use and was approved by The United Arabic Emirates for general use. The World Health Organization (WHO) is also coordinating global efforts to develop a vaccine by tracking the pandemic, advising on critical interventions, distributing vital medical supplies to those in need. The WHO aims to deliver two billion doses world-wise by the end of 2021. 

The way COVID-19 vaccines function is by instructing the immune system to defend against the virus. To do so, some vaccines use the whole coronavirus, but in a killed or weakened state. Others use only part of the virus—either a protein or a fragment—that will later be transferred into a different virus that is unlikely to cause disease or even incapable of it. Finally, some vaccine producers rely on deploying pieces of the coronavirus’s genetic material, so human’s cells can temporarily produce the coronavirus proteins required to stimulate the immune systems. The ideal candidate of COVID-19 would establish immunity in at least 70 percent of the population—vaccines meeting this standard can thus be put in use. 

Although the development of COVID-19 vaccines has been progressing steadily, it is still too early to determine how Concord Academy will be incorporating the vaccines into its safety procedures. “Obviously, it is exciting news that vaccines are set to become increasingly available over the course of 2021 and that teachers are in Phase 2 of Massachusetts’ vaccine distribution timeline.,” said Sarah Yeh, Interim Head of School of Concord Academy, “but we don’t yet know what the distribution system of the vaccines will be or when they will be available to students/teens.” According to Yeh, the school’s plans for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year are subject to change as more information regarding the pandemic continues to become available. Besides, it is worth mentioning that due to the various types of coronavirus scatter out around the globe, vaccines received by international students may not be fully efficacious when these students are exposed to the viruses in the U.S. Another wave of work and communication might be needed when all students will return to campus. 

When asked about how campus life will look when every student and faculty member returns, Sarah replied, “Vaccines are an important additional layer of risk mitigation that will make it increasingly safer to gather, at the same time that they will not bring an immediate solution. I anticipate that masks will be with us for a while, but as more members of the community are vaccinated, we look forward to seeing how that impacts guidance around distancing and gathering.” 

In conclusion, many COVID-19 vaccines are in development around the world, and the first candidate in the U.S. was recently approved. Let’s hope that safe vaccines will be widely distributed in the next few months, and that everyone will be able to resume their school life in CA as soon as possible. 

Image Courtesy of Pfizer Media Relations