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Vaccine Information Made Simple

Vaccine Information Made Simple

Vaccine Types, When They Will be Available, and Student Opinion 

By Eli Haynal 

The wealth of content in the news recently can be hard to digest, and vaccine information can be lost by the wayside. Currently, two vaccines have been approved for emergency use, and most Washington college students should not expect to receive either anytime soon.  

Illustration by Belicia Jiao

As of publication, two vaccines have received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration. [1] This means that they are approved for use during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, but will require further approval once the FDA deems the emergency situation has ended. [2] 

Although an EUA requires less testing than full authorization, the requirements are still extremely rigorous. [3] Before companies even submit an EUA request, their vaccines must undergo a three stage testing process on participants of broad demographic groups. [4] 

The Pfizer vaccine has received an EUA from the FDA after being found 95% effective in clinical trials on over 43,000 recipients. [4] The second approved coronavirus vaccine, produced by Moderna, achieved a 94.1% rate of effectiveness in phase 3 trials with over 30,000 participants. [5] Both vaccines consist of two doses, administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively. [6] 

Although the Pfizer vaccine is more reliable, the price for this effectiveness is paid in transport efficiency. Shipment of the Pfizer vaccine requires temperatures of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, and most hospitals do not have the infrastructure to extend their shelf life more than 35 days past arrival. [7] On the other hand, the Moderna vaccine remains stable for up to 6 months at only minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, an easily achievable temperature for even a household freezer. [8] 

With multiple vaccines approved for use, shipment becomes the deciding factor in vaccine availability. The demand is very high, so distribution meets frequent delays, but Washington state has released a planned schedule for vaccine distribution. [9] 

This schedule is split into four phases, but only phase one has been thoroughly planned at this time. [10] The state is currently enacting phase 1A, which focuses on vaccinating high risk healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities. [11] 

Currently, vaccines for Washington college students appear to be a long way down the road. The plan does not make exceptions for those living in high-density arrangements such as college dorms. Therefore, Washington college students should expect vaccination during phase 4, which is not on track to occur during 2021. [12] 

Despite the long potential wait for vaccines, they are nevertheless currently a central topic of conversation in all demographics. To facilitate the conversation about vaccination at WWU, The Collegian conducted a brief student survey which collected approximately 200 responses. 

“Would you get a COVID vaccine no matter the cost?” Chart by Eli Haynal. 

The results are shown in the attached figures. When asked if they would get a COVID-19 vaccine regardless of the cost, only 47.5% of students answered affirmatively. However, 76.2% of students said they would get a vaccine if it was of no cost to them, so cost appears to be a significant factor for WWU students’ vaccination. 

See Also

“Would you get a COVID vaccine if it cost you nothing?” Chart by Eli Haynal. 

Notably, almost 44% of students believe that WWU should require students to be vaccinated when able. Vaccination, and especially required vaccination, has long been a divisive issue, but it is worth noting that Walla Walla University students consent to maintain current immunization status as per the handbook. [14] Hence, they already agree to one form of required vaccination. 

 “Should WWU require students to be vaccinated when the opportunity becomes available?” Chart by Eli Haynal. 

Students also had the opportunity to provide written justifications for their survey answers. Most of these expressed confidence in the testing and distribution process, but some voiced reservations about safety. In this context, it is worth discussing the science behind the new vaccines. 

Viruses multiply by infiltrating body cells and using the mRNA they carry to trick those cells into producing copies of the virus. [15] They consist of structural proteins that make up their physical exterior and can be recognized by body cells as well as internal proteins that facilitate viral replication. [15] 

Most vaccines contain ineffective fragments of a virus’ structural proteins, allowing body cells to learn to recognize their specific structure. [16] The coronavirus consists of four distinct structural proteins, one of which is the distinctive spike protein found covering its surface. [17] Rather than containing parts of the virus, coronavirus vaccines are novel mRNA vaccines, meaning they contain genetic code that convinces body cells to produce, and subsequently recognize, the spike protein by themselves. [18] Therefore, the COVID-19 vaccine contains absolutely no viral material that could lead to infection. 

Citations 

  1. Washington State Department of Health. (2021, January 11). COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3oD3adn
  1. US Food and Drug Administration. (2020, November 11). Emergency use authorization for vaccines explained. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2MySWfF. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Pfizer. (2020, December 21). Our progress in developing an investigational COVID-19 vaccine. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3s3sIlO. 
  1. Moderna. (2020, December 31). Moderna announces publication of results from the pivotal phase 3 trial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in The New England Journal of Medicine [Press release]. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3hSZXU6. 
  1. Washington State Department of Health. (2021, January 11). COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3oD3adn
  1. Pfizer. (2020, November 20). COVID-19 vaccine US distribution fact sheet. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/39g45K0. 
  1. Moderna. (2020, November 16). Moderna announces longer shelf life for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate at refrigerated temperatures [Press release]. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/38pecgz. 
  1. Washington State Department of Health. WA state COVID-19 vaccine prioritization guidance and interim allocation framework. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2L3ZTVW. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Walla Walla University. Student handbook and code of conduct. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3s6YONJ. 
  1. Wei-Hass, Maya. (2019, February 22). Viruses, Explained. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://on.natgeo.com/2XnGSQw. 
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020 November 24). Understanding and explaining mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/35Ci4cn. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
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