The Status of the COVID-19 Vaccine — And What to Know About Vaccine Safety: Part I

As we continue to deal with the uncertainty of COVID-19, one glimmering sign of hope keeps us from giving in to despair: the ongoing development of a COVID-19 vaccine. In the midst of so much bad news, it’s easy to forget the remarkable ingenuity and security of the vaccine development process.

The highly anticipated vaccine first reached clinical trials a record 69 days after researchers identified SARS-CoV-2 as the force behind the outbreak. Since then, researchers have maintained this breakneck pace. What does this mean for the eventual release of a vaccine? We delve into the details below:

What We Know After Phases I and II

During the first two phases of any vaccine trial, application is limited to small groups of recipients. These early phases often uncover side effects related to the vaccine’s administration. If these prove too severe, development of the vaccine may be terminated early. This phase also highlights the efficacy of the vaccine in terms of antibody activity.

Thankfully, preliminary results have proven overwhelmingly positive for multiple COVID-19 vaccines. While initial trials revealed some moderate side effects such as headaches or pain at the injection site, participants generally manage avoid serious problems.

Phase III: A Significant Milestone

Multiple vaccine developers have reached the third and final phase of clinical trials. The successful completion of this phase allows a vaccine to advance to regulatory review and then manufacturing. Biotechnology company Moderna, for example, achieved this milestone in July. Likewise, phase 3 is currently beginning for the AstraZeneca vaccine developed by Oxford University. For both parties, this is an extraordinary accomplishment.

NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D explains, “The launch of this phase III trial in record time while maintaining the most stringent safety measures demonstrates American ingenuity at its best and what can be done when stakeholders come together with unassailable objectivity toward a common goal.”

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