It's been nearly a year since President Trump launched Operation Warp Speed (OWS). Like the US defense industry, the program couples brilliant individuals, private companies, public organizations and the federal government to accelerate the development, testing and supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
- At the time of writing, March 15, 2021, we have three approved COVID-19 vaccines in the US.
- Moderna and Pfizer are both two-dose mRNA vaccines.
As a medical professional or hospital administrator, you're probably aware that mRNA vaccines are relatively new. While they've been tested in labs for years, this is the first time they've become publicly prescribed in the fight against a virus.
A third vaccine, by Janssen Pharmaceuticals — a Johnson & Johnson company — is a viral vector vaccine. It uses a modified Adenovirus. Let's take a closer look at how these two types of vaccines work.
How the Current COVID-19 Vaccine Options Work
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says it best: rather than injecting a killed or weakened virus into our bodies, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein — or a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response. The antibodies we produce will protect us from infection should the actual virus enter our bodies.
- Currently, both mRNA vaccines require two doses administered a few weeks apart and must be maintained in low-temperature medical freezers.
But there is another option.
Viral Vector Vaccines Use DNA
The CDC says: viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a different virus — in this case, Ad26 — to deliver instructions to our cells.
- The vector virus is not COVID-19 but a different and harmless virus with modified DNA.
- The modified virus enters our cells and uses them to produce a harmlesspiece of the COVID-19 virus, called a "spike," unique to COVID-19.
- Our bodies then learn to recognize and fight it with antibodies.
Unlike mRNA vaccines, viral vector vaccines have been used since the 1970s. They require only one dose, and they can be kept in medical refrigerators, which makes them far more appealing to both patients and practitioners.
More Vaccines on the Horizon
Sputnik V — The Russian Vaccine
Across the pond, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) human medicine committee (CHMP) has started rolling reviews on Sputnik V, a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russia's Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
- Sputnik V is another DNA viral vector vaccine that should be similar in action to the Janssen vaccine.
- It's made from two modified Adenoviruses, Ad26 and Ad5.
- The two adenoviruses will require two separate doses. Ad26 is the first dose and Ad5 the second.
- The same process occurs — cells create the "spike" protein, our bodies learn to recognize and fight it, and in the future, the patient is better protected against COVID-19.
While not approved in the US, many other nations have authorized Sputnik V, including Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan and UAE.
"Traditional" Vaccines in Asia — SinoVac / CoronaVac
In China, more traditional vaccines are employed in the fight against Coronavirus. The SinoVac vaccine contains "inactivated" or killed viruses or particles of them. The human immune system learns to recognize and fight the virus but faces no risk of active infection.
These types of vaccinations have been in our medical tool kit since the first influenza vaccine in the 1940s. It's not approved in the US but is available in China and Thailand.
Now that we know who the biggest players in the field are, let's switch gears and talk about COVID vaccine drama happening in the news right now.
March 15, 2021: AstraZeneca Vaccine Administration Put on Hold in Europe
NBC News reported today that several European nations, including Germany, are suspending the use of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine due to reports of dangerous blood clots that seem to be connected with the vaccine.
Germany's Health Ministry called the decision a "precaution" on the advice of the nation's vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute. The health ministry says these blood clots are particularly dangerous, as they involve cerebral veins. However, they didn't specify where, when or to whom these incidents occurred.
We do know that a batch of 393,600 AstraZeneca vaccines was just seized in Italy after two men died immediately after vaccination last week and another died yesterday. At the time of writing, the vaccine has been suspended in Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
- The AstraZeneca vaccine, by the way, is another modified Adenovirus injection.
And this brings us to an interesting point about vaccine development and vaccine storage. Technologies and adaptations in the fight against COVID-19 are still unfurling. Medical professionals and government agencies are doing their best to operating in a changing landscape. New variants of COVID-19 will continue to emerge.
From time to time, bulk amounts of vaccine material will need to be correctly stored — and the team at American BioTech Supply is here to help.
The ABS Mission
Our goal is to provide a full range of temperature-controlled equipment for our customers across the laboratory, healthcare, clinical research, and pharmaceutical segments at ABS. In the race against COVID-19, we have expedited ultra-low freezers and medical refrigerators — to providers and hospitals that need them.
Our portfolio includes everything from smaller countertop refrigerators for family practitioners to -196°C cryogenic freezers. We offer medical refrigerators and freezers in a host of different sizes and configurations. Whether you need general cold storage or vaccine storage with stringent temperature requirements, we have the units your staff needs, and we're ready to expedite them.
We hope you've enjoyed our discussion of COVID-19 vaccine news. Be sure to read other blogs and contact us to learn about our cold storage solutions. We can help you choose the right vaccine storage solution for your practice.
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