As we enter the final month of the year 2020, probably the heaviest year the world ever experienced since World War II, it's becoming clear that travel and leisure are still not possible. 

The number of people infected by COVID-19 still rising sharply in most parts of the globe. We're still in the dark period of the pandemic and the government still struggling to control the surging number of infection. 

Strict restrictions on social distancing, health protocols and wearing face masks are still strongly imposed in most countries. And family gatherings this holiday season might just be confined in video calls.  

Light at the end of the Tunnel

However, the month of November gives us a reason to be grateful. A glimmer of hope flickers at the end of the tunnel when it was announced Pfizer, in partnership with BioNtech, a German company, and Moderna, finally reached the final stage of the trial of its vaccines with a largely positive result. 

The first to reach the podium of the vaccine race

Thanks to scientists, researchers and great people who worked hard to make this possible. Soon, we can do stuff like traveling, taking adventure, dining outside and other outdoor trips without so much movement restrictions. 

Pfizer, a New York-based drug company, released a statement declaring positive results from its coronavirus vaccine phase 3 trial. The first to report the encouraging 90% efficacy results on its final round of human testing in a wider scale.

Moderna, an American biotech company based in Massachusetts

It was followed by Moderna, a Massachusetts-based company, when they also announced that its vaccine has 94.5% efficacy result  during the third phase of the trial without adverse side effects among its volunteers worldwide.

Scientists greeted this relieving news, albeit with caution, joyfully. And of course, the world! Enough reason to feel festive this holiday season. 🎉🌲🍾

It means we're at the near end of the pandemic, and soon, would be out to see a normal world springs to life once again. 

The efficacy results of Pfizer and Moderna also provide hope to other drug companies currently developing their COVID-19 vaccines that coming up with an effective vaccine in less than a year is possible.

Normally, it takes years before an effective vaccine is developed, however, in COVID-19 case, researchers and scientists are racing with time to find a solution to prevent the entire world from breaking apart.

The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine began in January this year when this virus originated from Wuhan, China, became public knowledge. Today, there are 13 vaccines reached the final phase of the testing and most of it yielded promising results.

However, Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines are the first to reach the podium of the race. Followed by AstraZenica, a Swedish company, in partnership with the University of Oxford in England.

Vaccine Testing Process

How the trials are conducted to secure an authorization from the regulators for its release? There are different stages in the production process of an effective vaccine:

1. Preclinical Testing

After research studies are conducted on the behavior of a particular disease, scientists will test a new vaccine on cells then give it to animals to discover if it produces an immune response.

2. Phase I: Safety Trials

After the preclinical testing, scientists will then give the vaccine to a small number of people to test its safety and whether it stimulates the immune system.

3. Phase II: Expanded Trials

After the vaccine passes through Safety Trials, it will then give to the hundreds of people split into groups such as elderly and children to find out if vaccines act out differently from different groups. Scientists and researchers will also try to find out if the vaccine will stimulate the immune system.

4. Phase III: Efficacy Results

Before a vaccine reaches the third phase of the trial, its safety and positive response from the volunteers must be confirmed. It takes months and amount of works before it becomes ready to roll to the next stage. Thus, a phase III trial is so important and crucial. 

In phase III trial, scientists will give the vaccine to volunteers worldwide. They have to wait how many volunteers become infected compared to volunteers who received a placebo. This stage of the trial will try to determine if the vaccine can protect humans against the disease.

The coverage of Phase III trial is large enough to determine if there are adverse side effects of the vaccine. If there is, a retrial is recommended to correct the mistake.

However, in the race of developing an effective vaccine to stop the pandemic, there are vaccines that did not wait for the result of phase III and just approved by its government to vaccinate its population. 

Early or Limited Approval

China and Russia did this. It's called Early or Limited Approval stage where their developed vaccines, like Sinovac and Sputnik V, did not wait for the result of its phase III trial. However, this rush approval might have serious health risks and experiments warned the public against it. 

5. Approval

Regulators in every country, like Food and Drug Administration, Bureau of Drugs, etc. will review the trial results after the vaccine passes the third phase of the trial. Regulators will then decide whether to approve/authorize the use of the vaccine or reject it.

However, an approval is not a guarantee that scientists will rest its laurel. Work and research still continue. They have to observe the volunteers and those who receive the vaccine shots if there are long-term effect in immunity or has serious side effects, to ensure the vaccine is safe for the general public.

In today's case of the pandemic, drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna are seeking an emergency-use approval from regulators to distribute the vaccine before the end of the year to vaccinate health workers and vulnerable groups.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration, will have an emergency meeting this December 10 whether to approve or reject the application of Pfizer.

Types of Vaccine for COVID19

A vaccine is developed through a specific method. Usually, through the traditional way, the weakened form of virus, but this method takes years to develop according to science pundits.

The world is currently ravaged with the pandemic and destroyed most of its economy and vulnerable population, thus, an immediate solution is needed to come up with an effective vaccine.

Here are types of vaccines and its characteristics currently developed by drug and biotech companies. 

1. Genetic Vaccine

RNA vaccine is a virus genetic code that tells our body cells what to build. As the vaccine enters the body, the cells will provoke to create a coronavirus spike protein which then triggers the immune system to produce antibodies and T-cells to attack and destroy the infected cells.

Messenger RNA, according to experts, have the advantage of quicker immune response should the virus mutate significantly. Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna are among the 14 companies that developed vaccine using mRNA technology.

This is the quicker way to develop a vaccine. It requires only a short period of time compared to other methods. But this type is also the most vulnerable as it's difficult to store. 

RNA vaccines need to keep in a freezing temperature because of its nature that easily degrade when put in a normal medical or home freezer. Due to this reason, no RNA vaccine has developed yet for humans. COVID-19 RNA vaccine will be the first.

2. Viral Vector Vaccine

Other companies working on vaccine development used the traditional method of viral vector vaccine. It uses a weakened form of a cold virus that usually infects monkeys and genetically altered to carry some of the code for key proteins in COVID19 that provoke protective immunity for humans.

Viral Vector Vaccine enters the cells and cause them to make viral proteins but some are slow to replicate and carry coronavirus proteins to body cells. This type of vaccine takes time to develop compared to RNA vaccine.

Vaccines in China (CanSinoBio) and Russia (Sputnik V, developed by Gamaleya Research Institute), AstraZenica, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, to name a few, are using this kind of vaccine development. 

3. Protein-Based Vaccines

These are vaccine types that contain coronavirus proteins but no genetic material. Some vaccines contain whole proteins and some contain fragments of them. Vaccines of this type being currently tested are US-based Novavax and Medicago, Anhui Zhifei Longcom from China, Bektop from Russia, Sanofi, to name a few.

4. Inactivated or Attenuated Coronavirus Vaccines

These are the traditional way of developing vaccines, created from the weakened coronaviruses that have been killed by chemicals. 

Vaccine produced from thes types are Sinovac (China, already approved and administered to limited population), Sinopharm in China, in partnership with Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, is currently testing two types of inactivated coronaviruses. Though its phase 3 trial is not yet finished, the company is now filing an application to market the vaccine.

Other companies developing this type of vaccine are Bharat Biotech in India, other biotech companies in Russia and China, and Codagenix Inc from New York.

Winning the race!

Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna are winning the COVID-19 vaccine race! They are on the final stage of processing an approval from the regulators to authorize the use of the vaccine.

If approved, distribution is expected to start in the middle of December before Christmas but priorities are health workers, front liners and vulnerable population. The general public can get the shots by April 2021.

Wearing face mask might still be imposed until June 2021 because the long-term immunity among volunteers in the phase 3 trial is still being observed. But having this news today is enough to be hopeful for a normal life again comes springtime.

How the vaccine works?

Both Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna developed the same type of vaccine. Genetic vaccine or RNA vaccine . It is based on mRNA or messenger RNA. A technology that allows genetic vaccines to deliver one or more of the coronavirus's own genes into the body cells to provoke an immune response.

Dr. Ugur Sahin and his wife, Dr. Ozlem Tureci, founders of BioNtech, spearheaded the development of this vaccine using the same mRNA technology as Moderna.

This is an entirely new technology in developing vaccines for humans and only fewer biotech companies utilizing this method due to its instability and difficult storage method. However, this is the easier way of developing vaccines, albeit expensive. 

The mRNA method will provoke human cells to produce COVID19 viral proteins rather than injecting them from outside. The method employs a synthetic form of a genetic molecule called messenger RNA to cause human cells to make a harmless viral protein called a spike, which then stimulates the immune system to make antibodies and immune cells that quickly recognize the spike and counterattack it.

How mRNA vaccine works to protect a person?

According to Sanjay Mishra, a scientist, in his column in Tech and Science Post, vaccines train the immune system to recognize the disease-causing part of a virus, traditionally, it contains either weakened viruses or purified signature proteins of the virus.

In the case of mRNA vaccine, mRNA molecules are simpler than proteins. And it works differently than traditional vaccines. Rather than having the viral protein injected, a person receives genetic material - the mRNA - that encodes the viral protein 

The muscle cells then provoke them to make the viral protein that imitates what COVID-19 doing to the body cells, this gives the immune system a time to identify the infected cells and provoke the immune system to design powerful antibodies and immune cells or T-cells that neutralize the real virus of COVID-19 carries by the infected person.


Pfizer's mRNA vaccine is easier to produce and requires only a short period of time to test its safety and effectiveness, however, it is difficult to store. It would not survive in a normal medical freezer.

Due to its nature, mRNA vaccine easily degrades in normal home refrigerator temperatures. Thus, it requires a freezer of minus 70 degrees celsius to prevent it from degrading. 

However, Moderna announced that its mRNA vaccine can survive in a freezer of minus 20 degrees celsius and can last until six months in the cold storage.

Due to its vulnerability, no mRNA vaccines have been produced for humans, and COVID-19 vaccine will be the first to use this technology to be approved by FDA. 

A great risk and challenge in the production and distribution but for the sake of humanity and the world, Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and other companies using this method take an ultimate sacrifice to come up with a quicker and better solution to defeat the pandemic. 

Comparisons of their vaccines:


  • Type: RNA-virus genetic code
  • Doses: Two injections, 21 days apart
  • How effective: 90%
  • Storage: Negative 75 degrees centigrade or in deep freeze

  • Type: RNA-virus genetic code
  • Doses: Two injections, four weeks apart
  • How effective: 95%
  • Storage: Negative 20 degrees centigrade up to six months

The downside

As with most things on earth that are still new and emerging and in early phase of development, vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, though on the brink of acquiring approval from regulators, have many unanswered questions. 

The long-term immunity has not been proven because it's still in the infancy stage. However, scientists and researchers from these companies continue to monitor the volunteers with any adverse effects.

It is still uncertain whether the vaccines can prevent severe cases of infections or what nature of infections the vaccines can prevent.

But whatever the misgivings of others, one thing is certain, there's a vaccine that works, there's a vaccine that will let us return to at least half of a normal life. A vaccine that may prevent the further spread of COVID19. For now, this is all what matters most.

After all, vaccines do not actually provide cure to the disease, its main goal is to prevent the person from getting infected with the disease and stop the spread of the virus by building a stronger immunity response.

And this is what we should be thankful for as the heavy year of 2020 bids goodbye. There's hope, there is light after darkness. There's reason to be grateful and believe in humanity once again.

Thanks to Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and other drug companies currently doing everything to find solutions to the worsening condition of the pandemic. You make this world a better place to live in. Thank you big time! 

One of these days, we can go traveling again, we can join family and friends on a trip somewhere else, discovering life and exploring the wonders of the world!


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