(CBS News) – In the coming weeks, two coronavirus vaccines will go before the FDA for emergency use authorization review. Many public health experts say widespread vaccination plays a critical role in ending this pandemic.
The two coronavirus vaccines that are ready for approval are from Pfizer and from Moderna. According to Dr. Barry Bloom, a research professor and former dean at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “While the science is unprecedented and quicker than ever, the clinical trials are as rigorous and as detailed as they were for measles and polio and diphtheria.”
Both vaccines are a new type called mRNA. They contain genetic information, which instructs cells to produce harmless coronavirus proteins, to trigger an immune response. Dr. Ruth Karron, who is with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says, “94, 95% efficacy against any COVID disease, and 100% efficacy against severe disease.”
Both trials enrolled tens of thousands of people. Both makers have reported the vaccines were well-tolerated. Dr. Bloom says he understands the public questioning the vaccines, and that’s good to do. But with testing on such a large group, the evidence supports vaccination. “You have no serious side effects, at least during the period of the trial. And you have 95, 94 percent protection against a disease that’s killing people, filling up hospitals, paralyzing the healthcare system in this country. Think seriously about the risks and the benefits,” he says.
There are some unknowns like whether the vaccines can prevent transmission. “It’s not time to throw away your mask or start congregating again. Because it could be that these vaccines protect you, protect your neighbor by preventing spread from one person to another, but we don’t know that yet,” says Dr. Karron.
The other big unknown is how long will protection last. Both vaccines require two doses to achieve protection. Moderna’s two doses are given a month apart, and Pfizer’s are given three weeks apart.