Health

US begins offering shots of second type of coronavirus vaccine

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mainichi– The United States on Monday began offering shots of a second type of vaccine to prevent the coronavirus disease, becoming the first country to put U.S. biotechnology firm Moderna Inc.’s vaccine into practical use.

In the latest effort to boost public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, whose development within a year is seen as remarkably rapid, President-elect Joe Biden, 78, received a shot in public in his home state of Delaware.

According to his office, Biden took a dose of the vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE, which was the first vaccine greenlighted by the U.S. drug regulator.

As concerns emerged over a new strain of the novel coronavirus detected in Britain, a member of the White House coronavirus task force said the government is working with Britain to figure out whether the virus is going to behave any differently.

“Viruses mutate. It’s what they do…That doesn’t mean it’s more dangerous,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, adding, “So far, nothing looks like it’s going to change the effectiveness of this vaccine.”

Even if there is a mutation at some point that would affect vaccine efficacy, there is a way to “tweak,” just like in cases of seasonal flu vaccines, he added.

The mass vaccination program in the United States started a week ago with the Pfizer vaccine. Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, who are seen at high risk of infection and severe illness, are being prioritized in the initial phase of the program.

Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a new technology known as messenger RNA, or mRNA.

While traditional vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into human bodies to trigger an immune response, mRNA vaccines provide instructions for cells to make a protein that resembles one found in the novel coronavirus to prepare the immune system.

Moderna’s vaccine is seen to be more suitable for distribution as it can be stored in normal freezers compared with Pfizer’s, which is required to be preserved at an ultralow temperature of around minus 70 C.

Last Friday, Pfizer requested approval of its vaccine with Japan’s health authorities. Japan is expected to receive a supply of 120 million vaccine doses from Pfizer, enough for 60 million people, or roughly half its population, in the first half of next year.

 

Japan also has an agreement with Moderna for enough vaccine doses to cover 25 million people.