The first reported case of a new illness was reported just about a year ago, caused by a novel coronavirus, later named SARs-CoV-2, because of similarities to SARS-CoV-1 that caused the SARS scare in 2002-2004. The big difference between them is that SARS-CoV-2 is much more infectious than the first SARS virus. The disease itself is different too. The SARS-CoV-1 was pretty much a respiratory illness that attacked the lungs and caused severe respiratory distress, but did not transmit readily. COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, also attacks the lungs, but also other parts of the body in surprising ways.
This has been a year of devastation in so many ways, involving the entire globe. But it has also been a year of amazing research and problem solving, international collaboration and innovation. Already, as announced today, we have a second viable vaccine candidate.
The Moderna vaccine is also an mRNA that neutralizes the spike protein on the virus to prevent attachment to receptors on the host’s cells. The reported rate of 94.5% effectiveness is impressive. The Moderna mRNA seems to be well tolerated with no dangerous side effects noted so far. It is given in two doses and, more importantly, can be held safely in the refrigerator for 30 days and spend 12 hours at room temperature and not lose effectiveness. Those easier requirements for handling are an advantage for it, compared to the Pfizer vaccine that needs to be stored about minus 80 degrees Centigrade. The data shows effectiveness in older people and minorities which is reassuring.
There are more promising vaccine candidates still out there. The New York Times is keeping track of them. Learning how to recognize good vaccine results takes some skill. This particular article is really helpful in understanding what to look for.
Major hurdles are still in the way before we return to more normal times. The big one looming first is Thanksgiving, coming while we are having a huge surge of infections. Officials fear a bigger rise in infections afterwards since so many have pandemic fatigue and want a return to normalcy that a big gathering for dinner can bring. Also, still having COVID-19 skeptics doesn’t help either, and brings tragedy to some.
The rest of us are mindful that we can always have Thanksgiving with each other next year, if we can stay safe. We want all of our friends and family to be there for that grand celebration.
Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, keep it small, and keep the faith.
And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.