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When will vaccines be available so we can stop wearing PPE?

With restrictions affecting our everyday activities and lockdowns hitting pause on many of our lives altogether, the world has been craving some good news. With 2020 coming to a close, the positivity we’ve been looking for might be just around the corner. 

Multiple vaccine trials are showing promising results and dental professionals are expected to get the COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year, or at the beginning of 2021 at the latest.

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New updates are being published almost every day and it’s difficult to keep up with what’s going on. To help you make sense of things, here’s the latest information about the coronavirus vaccine and what it means to dental professionals.

Pfizer and BioNTech

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is the most hopeful, as it has concluded phase three and meets all the primary efficacy endpoints. It’s 95% effective across all demographics 28 days after the initial dose, with efficiency dropping a mere 1% in adults aged 65+.

The companies are working to produce 50 million vaccine doses available worldwide by the end of 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. The US has purchased 100 million doses of the vaccine so far.

The FDA will be reviewing the Pfizer and BionNTech vaccine on December 10 and if it’s authorized (as it’s expected to be) it could begin to be shipped out within 24 hours.

Expected release date: December 11

Moderna

With 94.5% efficiency, the Moderna vaccine is essentially just as effective as the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, but with one distinct advantage. While the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine must be restored at -94F to be effective, the Moderna vaccine is stable for up to six months at -4F. This makes it much easier to store and transport globally.

This vaccine is given in two doses, four weeks apart. Moderna is expected to ask the FDA for authorization at the beginning of December, meaning it could be ready around the same time as the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine.

The company predicts having 20 million doses ready to ship to the US by the end of the year, followed by another 80 million in 2021.

Expected release date: December

AstraZeneca

The British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca reports that its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose one month apart. Efficiency drops down to 62% when two full doses are given one month apart. This creates an average efficiency of 70%.

The FDA requires a vaccine to be at least 50% effective for it to be released, making the AstraZeneca vaccine a qualifier. However, it’s unclear if the FDA will authorize its emergency use. The US has purchased 500 million doses of the vaccine, although trials are still ongoing and a release date has yet to be reported.

Expected release date: Unknown

Johnson & Johnson

Unlike all the other vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered in one dose. Trials are still ongoing and a two-dose clinical trial is currently underway to find out if the vaccine can be more effective in multiple doses.

Until the current trial is complete, information about the efficiency of the vaccine is unlikely to be released. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires basic refrigeration to keep stable. If the company can create a high level of efficiency within a single dosage, this vaccine will be the easiest to store and administer.

The US has procured 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Expected release date: Unknown

Does this mean we can stop wearing PPE?

Having to wear layers of PPE for hours at a time every workday is tough. But frustratingly, the release of a vaccine doesn’t mean dental professionals can toss their N95 masks aside and get back to their normal way of practicing, not even if they’ve been vaccinated.

Because no vaccine has ever been created this way and most trials are currently ongoing, researchers are still learning more about the effects the vaccines will have. Studies have shown that the most successful vaccines do generate an immune response, protecting people from COVID-19. But it has yet to be established how long the immunity lasts.

It also has yet to be clarified whether the vaccines prevent the person vaccinated from spreading the virus to others or whether they simply prevent the symptoms associated from COVID-19 from occurring within the individual. While the trails were carried out with people of all demographics, how the vaccine affects people at high risk of COVID-19 (such as people with diabetes or obesity) also needs to be determined.

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Additionally, researchers and policymakers need to consider how they’re going to deal with the challenges independent of the vaccine. These include managing the population that don’t want to be vaccinated or respect public health restrictions, as well as the logistics of transporting the vaccine around the world and ensuring there is equipment in place to safely store it.

While so much information is unknown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that everyone continues wearing face masks, practices frequent handwashing and maintains social distance until further research has been done.

This certainly isn’t the information you wanted to hear, especially after learning that dental professionals have a great chance at being amongst the first people to be offered the COVID-19 vaccination, but it’s the truth. The finishing line is truly in sight, but there’s still a lot of work that remains to be done before anyone successfully crosses it.

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