Guide to COVID-19 Vaccine for health Click To Tweet

According to the WHO, more than 230 COVID-19 vaccines are currently at various stages of development in the world. As of February 2, 2021, 63 of them are in various phases of clinical trials (human trials), and 175 are in preclinical trials (in animals). Three vaccines have received approval from reputable regulatory authorities in different countries, but research on them is ongoing.

The main things to know about those vaccines that are already in use or have a good chance of being approved in the near future. At the time of this writing, none of them is legally available in Ukraine.


Vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech

Official name: Tozinameran or BNT162b2.

Developer: German biotechnology company BioNTech, together with American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Operating principle. The vaccine is based on technology that has been in development for several decades, but has never been used in any approved vaccine before. Its main component is a messenger RNA molecule, which contains information about an antigen – a protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the causative agent of COVID-19. When this molecule enters the human cell, this protein is synthesized there, and our body produces an immune response to it. Such vaccines are called RNA vaccines.

It is with the use of this new technology that one of the main disadvantages of the vaccine is associated: unlike most others created using old technologies, it must be stored at -70 ° C. Obviously, this requires special equipment.

How and to whom it is administered. Today, the vaccine can be used by people as young as 16 years old, and trials with younger participants are ongoing. 

For vaccination, you need to enter two doses at intervals of three weeks.

Efficiency. According to the manufacturer, the effectiveness of the vaccine after the first dose is 95%. This is a good indicator compared to other vaccines for various diseases. Like most other types of vaccines, it cannot cause the disease from which it protects (in this case, COVID-19), even in theory, since it does not contain viral particles, and they are not used in the vaccine production process. In addition, it cannot even theoretically affect the human genome. 

Possible side effects. The clinical trials did not include people who had previously experienced severe allergic reactions to other vaccines. There was no such reaction during clinical trials of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, but it has been observed when used outside the trials. The manufacturer studies all such cases and notes that the vaccination sites must have all the conditions in order to provide emergency care if needed (the same rule applies to other vaccines).

The vaccine has not been tested in pregnant women, so there is not enough information about whether it will be safe for the expectant mother and her baby. But in the near future, the manufacturer wants to start such a study. 

Which countries are using. This is the very first vaccine to be used in the United States under the so-called Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This means that, given the severity of the epidemic, she was given the green light for an expedited procedure. It is also already in use in the EU and the UK. In total, Pfizer could produce 1.3 billion doses of vaccine in 2021.

Will it appear in Ukraine. Earlier, the chief sanitary doctor of Ukraine Viktor Lyashko said that in February this year Ukraine will receive 117 thousand doses of vaccine from Pfizer / BioNTech. They will be distributed among the employees of hospitals where they provide care for patients with COVID-19.

Vaccine from Moderna

Official name: mRNA-1273

Developer: American company Moderna

Operating principle. Also an RNA vaccine, much like the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. 

How and to whom it is administered. It is intended for people aged 18 and over. 

The drug is injected intramuscularly twice with an interval of one month.

Efficiency. Its effectiveness after the first dose is 92%.

Possible side effects. Contraindicated in those who have had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose, or a similar reaction to any of the components of the vaccine. In addition to the m-RNA molecule, it contains lipids, polyethylene glycol, sodium acetate, and some other excipients. Pregnant women should consult their doctor if they are considering getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The manufacturer notes that after vaccination, patients may experience a number of adverse reactions, such as pain at the injection site, swelling and redness, or fatigue, headache, chills and joint pain. 

There is also the possibility that a person may experience a severe allergic reaction within one hour of the injection, resulting in shortness of breath, palpitations, and swelling of the face and throat. In this case, you should seek emergency medical attention. However, similar warnings apply to other vaccines, regardless of what technology is behind them and what disease they protect.

Which countries are using. It also has not yet been approved by the American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulator. For USA it is only used in emergency. In addition, it has been approved for use in the EU, UK and Canada.

Will it appear in Ukraine. As Maksim Stepanov said earlier, Moderna was among those manufacturers with whom Ukraine was negotiating the purchase of the vaccine. But there is no reliable information yet whether it will be available to our citizens.

Vaccine from AstraZeneca

Official name: AZD1222

Developer: Swedish-British company AstraZeneca in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oxford.

Operating principle. Unlike the RNA vaccines developed by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, this is a so-called vector vaccine. “Vector” is a virus that does not harm the human body. Its task is to deliver the gene of a pathogenic virus into the cell, against which it is necessary to develop immunity. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses the simian adeno virus virus as a vector, which poses no threat to the human body. It delivers to the cells of the human body a gene in which the protein of the so-called “thorn” SARS-CoV-2 is encoded. The cell synthesizes this protein and the human body develops an immune response. 

One of the advantages of the Astra Zeneca vaccine over existing RNA vaccines is that it can be stored for extended periods at 2-8 ° C. 

How and to whom it is administered. In some countries, although the vaccine is used there, it is not recommended for people over 55. This is due to the fact that there is not enough data on the effectiveness of the vaccine for this age group.

The drug is injected intramuscular twice with an interval of one month.

Efficiency. At the end of November last year, Astra Zeneca announced the positive results of the third phase of clinical trials AZD1222. More than 23 thousand people took part in Brazil and Great Britain. The vaccine was tested according to different schemes, therefore its average effectiveness was different. The best result – 90% was obtained in the group where first the participants received half the dose, and after a month – the full one. If two full doses are given at monthly intervals, the vaccine is only 62% effective. 

It is worth mentioning here that a year ago the American FDA regulator set the efficacy bar for future vaccines at 50%.

And in early February this year, AstraZeneca announced new results from clinical trials of its vaccine. Already after the first dose, the effectiveness of the vaccine is 76%, and after the second dose, given at least three months in advance, it is 82%. 

Possible side effects. The manufacturer claims that there was not a single case of a serious adverse reaction during the tests.

Which countries are using. The vaccine was approved for use in the UK and the EU. In addition, the use of the vaccine has been approved in Brazil, India and several other countries in Latin America and Asia. 

The company said it could produce up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine this year. 

Will it appear in Ukraine. According to the press service of the President’s Office, the first deliveries of the vaccine from Astra Zeneca to Ukraine should begin as early as February. Later, the intention to purchase, among others, this vaccine was confirmed by Vladimir Zelensky himself.

“Sputnik V”

Official name: Gam-COVID-Wack

Developer: Russian Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology. N.F. Gamalei. 

Operating principle. Similar to the Astra Zeneca vaccine. But as a “vector” is used here another type of adeno virus – not monkey, but human. 

How and to whom it is administered. Adults over 18 years of age. The drug is administered intramuscular, twice, with an interval of three weeks. The vaccine is prescribed with caution to people with chronic liver and kidney diseases and some other diseases. 

Efficiency. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the effectiveness of the Russian vaccine. In Russia, it was registered in August last year, a few months before vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna began to be used in the United States. And there were many questions about the results of her clinical trials in professional circles. 

But on February 2 this year, the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet published the results of the third phase of clinical trials of “Sputnik V”. Testing on almost 20 thousand volunteers has shown that its effectiveness is about 92%. This is roughly on par with vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna. 

Although a small proportion of the participants who received the real vaccine, and not a placebo during clinical trials, contracted COVID-19, none of them became severely ill. 

The vaccine has also been shown to be effective in people aged 60 and over. But it has not been tested on minors, pregnant women, and nursing mothers, therefore, how the vaccine works on these groups is still unknown.

Possible side effects. There were no life-threatening reactions associated with the vaccine. 

Which countries are using. Several dozen countries have shown interest in purchasing Russian vaccines. And Belarus and a number of other countries have already begun to inoculate it. 

Will it appear in Ukraine. The political factor plays a significant role in the story of the Russian vaccine. It is very important for Russia to win the vaccine race and use it to influence other countries. In Ukraine, for example, it was the pro-Moscow politicians who actively promoted the issue of purchasing the Russian vaccine.

In his recent speech, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ruled our the possibility that Ukraine would purchase the Russian drug Sputnik V. According to him, “there is no information that this drug is effective,” and “the citizens of Ukraine are not rabbits to experiment on . 

Vaccine from Novavax

Official name: NVX-CoV2373

Developer: American company Novavax

Operating principle. The key component of the vaccine is the so-called spike protein from the surface of the coronavirus, which is grown in insect cells. This means it cannot cause COVID-19 in humans, the disease it protects against. In addition, an adjuvant is used here – a special substance that enhances the immune response and stimulates the production of high levels of antibodies. Such a vaccine is stored at a temperature of 2-8 ° C, which compares favorably with RNA vaccines. 

How and to whom it is administered. This vaccine has not been tested on children, so it is now not intended for them. It is administered intramuscular , in two doses.

Efficiency. At the end of January, Novavax published the results of the third phase of clinical trials conducted in the UK. They showed that the effectiveness of the vaccine is 89.3%. This is not much lower than competitors from Pfizer and Moderna, but the manufacturer notes that the vaccine has shown good effectiveness against the so-called British strain of the virus, as well as against the South African strain (in South Africa, this vaccine is now in earlier stages of testing). 

Much like the competition, the vaccine has not been tested in people under the age of 18. At the same time, more than a quarter of the test participants were over 65 years old.

Possible side effects. Side effects in clinical trials of the vaccine were infrequent and were evenly distributed between the placebo group and those who received the actual vaccine. 

Which countries are using. Canada intends to produce at home and use the vaccine from Novavax to vaccinate its citizens.

Will it appear in Ukraine. According to the Minister of Health Maxim Stepanov, Ukraine expects it along with the vaccine from Astra Zeneca in February this year.


Official name: CoronaVac 

Developer: Chinese company Sinovac Biotech

Operating principle. This is an inactivated vaccine, that is, its main component is non-viable viral particles. They cannot cause illness, but they induce an immune response. This is an old, proven technology that is used to make many other vaccines. Unlike RNA vaccines, it can be stored at 2-8 ° C, like some of its other competitors.

How and to whom it is administered. Intramuscularly in two doses. 

Efficiency. China allowed the use of this vaccine for people at risk in the summer. Preliminary data from the third phase of clinical trials from different countries are now available, and they differ markedly. In particular, in Turkey its efficiency was at 91%, and in Indonesia – 65%. And in Brazil, it was only slightly above 50%. Such a low indicator and a noticeable discrepancy in the results in different countries caused a lot of criticism and doubts about its reliability. 

Possible side effects. Studies in Indonesia have shown no serious side effects. The worst thing that was observed was the fever, which disappeared after a few days . 

Which countries are using. Countries such as Bolivia, Chile, Philippines, Singapore, Turkey, Thailand and some others have allowed or want to use it.

Will it appear in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has signed a contract for the purchase of 1.9 million doses.

Vaccine from Johnson & Johnson

Official name: Ad26.COV2.S

Developer: American company Johnson & Johnson

Operating principle. Another vector vaccine, such as those developed by AstraZeneca and the Gamalea Center. Among its advantages is the ability to store in a regular refrigerator, as can be done with other vaccines made using classical technologies. 

How and to whom it is administered. It is administered intramuscular once.

Efficiency. At the end of January this year, the manufacturer announced that, according to research results, its effectiveness is 66%, but with a probability of 85% it protects against a severe form of the disease. 

Possible side effects. During clinical studies, no serious side effects have been identified .

Which countries are using. In early February, the manufacturer filed an application with the FDA for an emergency use of the vaccine, and at the end of February, the American regulator should consider this issue. The manufacturer plans to submit the same application to the European regulator.

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