Our Medical Director MATT EDWARDS answers your questions about the Coronavirus vaccine. Last updated 13 Jan 2021.
How does a vaccine work? It trains and prepares the body’s natural defences (aka the immune system) to recognise and then fight off the virus or bacteria that it targets. If the body is later exposed to these disease-causing infections, it is immediately ready to destroy them, thus preventing illness. Vaccines save millions of lives each year.
How will the vaccine be rolled out in each country? It is very likely that any vaccine distribution will be under the oversight of the relevant Department of Health in a country, which in turn may well be advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
How many different vaccines are there? So far 3 have been authorised for use by certain national regulatory authorities. None have yet received WHO authorisation, but an assessment on the Pfizer vaccine is expected soon. There are currently more than 50 vaccines in trials, and so it is likely that additional ones will be submitted for approval.
What happens when a vaccine is approved? Once vaccines are demonstrated to be safe and efficacious, they must be approved by national regulators, manufactured to exacting standards, and distributed. COVAX - a global initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers - will then work to facilitate the equitable access and distribution of vaccines to protect people in all countries.
Are the studies of each vaccine’s safety and efficacy published? Large studies of five vaccine candidates' efficacy and safety results have been publicly reported through press releases. But only one (AstraZeneca) so far has published results in the peer reviewed literature.
Is there a vaccine in Kenya yet? No vaccines have yet been approved for use in Kenya.
How many vaccines are there in the UK? There are currently 3 vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine; Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine; Moderna vaccine. These have all met the standards of safety, quality and effectiveness as set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
How is delivery of the vaccine being rolled out? In countries where vaccines are being used, they are currently being given to the most clinically at risk and most vulnerable. For example, in England - where it’s being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at local vaccination centres run by GPs, and at larger vaccination centres - it is being given to people aged 80 and over, people who live or work in care homes, as well as health and social care workers at high risk.
Is the vaccine available privately? No, and it is unlikely it will be before the end of 2021.
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