Questions You May Have about the COVID-19 Vaccines

The race for a vaccine is over. In the past month, successful phase 3 trials of three different COVID vaccines have been announced, prompting relief and excitement. Here are some answers to questions you may have related to COVID vaccine news:

What is Operation Warp Speed? 

Operation Warp Speed is a government program designed to accelerate the creation of COVID vaccines. The US government gave money to private companies to fund vaccine development.

What is efficacy? How does it differ from effectiveness?
Efficacy refers to the performance of a drug or vaccine under optimal conditions. Effectiveness refers to the performance of a drug or vaccine in real world conditions, where more can go wrong. 

What is a phase 3 clinical trial? What are the phases of clinical trials?

In order for a drug or vaccine to be released to the public, it must be demonstrated to be safe and effective. In a phase 1 trial, a small number of individuals are exposed to a drug or vaccine in order to test the safety of said drug or vaccine, and determine optimal dosages. In a phase 2 trial, more individuals take the drug or vaccine, which is tested for efficacy as well as side effects. In a phase 3 trial, thousands of individuals may take the drug or vaccine, which is further tested for efficacy.

What is herd immunity? How many people need to be immune to reach herd immunity? 

Herd immunity is when enough people in a population are immune to a disease that each new case results in less than one secondary case. In simpler terms, it means enough people can’t get sick that epidemics don’t occur. The herd immunity threshold varies from disease to disease, so we don’t yet know how many people will need COVID vaccines in order to surpass the herd immunity threshold. 

When will I get vaccinated?

We don’t know. In all likelihood, healthy young people will be among the last people to get vaccinated, due to our low risk of serious COVID complications. 

To everyday Americans, now may seem like the perfect time to relax. But until these vaccines can be manufactured and widely distributed, we cannot afford to reduce social distancing measures. 

Keep checking Headlight for future updates on the progress of COVID-19 vaccines and young people’s experiences during this pandemic.

Kate Gardner

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