Friday, November 13, 2020

This week began with a rare piece of good pandemic news: Pfizer announced that its two-part COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective at preventing disease, making it the most promising candidate yet. If borne out by yet-to-be-published data and granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a vaccine with efficacy levels that high could make a serious dent in a pandemic that continues to set new records daily in the U.S. and ravage the rest of the world.
But creating a vaccine and getting it approved are only the first steps. “The asterisk is that actually getting the vaccine to people who need it will not be easy,” says my colleague Jamie Ducharme, who recently wrote about the challenges facing Pfizer’s vaccine. Among them: the genetic material (called mRNA) used to make the vaccine breaks down unless it’s kept at ultra-low temperatures, so the vaccine must be stored at -94° F, requiring expensive specialized freezers. That complicates the rollout logistics for under-resourced communities, like rural areas, nursing homes and developing nations.

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