Great progress on COVID-19 vaccines

Published December 1, 2020

David Brett-Major, MD, MPH

By David Brett-Major, MD, MPH

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated masking guidelines since this was written. Get the latest information.

Great progress on COVID-19 vaccines

Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, have submitted the results from their large phase 3 trial to the FDA for emergency use approval. Moderna has done the same with their vaccine candidate trial. 

Between these two trials, tens of thousands of people have received these products, so the FDA has a lot of initial information on how well they work and how safe they are. There are other kinds of vaccine candidates also reaching the same point in the process.

Both of these vaccines use messenger RNA to instruct your body to build the coronavirus' spike protein. Your body then produces antibodies to combat the coronavirus when it encounters it later. 

When one or more of these vaccines earns an emergency use authorization, the FDA will have decided that the benefit of the vaccines outweigh their risks and will continue to monitor their performance closely. 

Distribution takes time

The pure logistics of producing and distributing vaccines on such a large scale poses a challenge. Nebraska Medicine has prepared to make the best possible use of vaccines when we get them.

Vaccines are being supplied in phases. The State of Nebraska vaccination plan identifies who gets vaccine first. People with priority access include health care workers, then essential workers and people at higher risk of severe COVID-19.

Specific storage, thawing and dilution requirements exist for each vaccine. Nebraska Medicine can store and distribute any vaccine regardless of specialized requirements, like ultra-cold temperatures.

We have converted a former grocery store to a vaccine distribution center. It includes large indoor spaces, so people receiving the vaccine can be socially distanced. Once vaccines are ready for non-health care workers, vaccines will be available by appointment only. 

Safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines are vital to getting past the pandemic. Continued mask use, physical and social distancing, personal and environmental hygiene, taking the right steps when sick (or others are) and avoiding large gatherings remain important.