Over 17 million people worldwide received a vaccine by early January
At last, there’s a flicker of hope not only for the travelers among us. The world has started vaccinating against COVID-19, bringing hope to everyone awaiting the end of the pandemic.
As vaccines are being distributed worldwide, the scientific online publication Our World in Data is monitoring the progress with interactive maps and charts. See them below as we take you through the latest updates on COVID-19 vaccines.
Israel outpaces the world with the fastest vaccine distribution
Both the US and Europe have been accelerating the speed of the vaccine rollout, yet Israel with a population of just under nine million has been the fastest to administer COVID-19 shots so far. Every one in five in the country, or about 1,69 million people, have received their first dose by now.
Israel aims to have the majority of the country vaccinated by April, with a speed of distribution at 150,000 people per day.
By contrast, with a population of 331 million people, the United States succeeded in administering vaccines to just over three million, or about one percent of the total population, by the end of the year and didn’t reach its goal to vaccinate 20 million people before the close of 2020. As of 8 January, the US has administered about 5.9 million first doses.
The United Kingdom has vaccinated about 1.3 million out of its 66 million people.
Moderna joins the portfolio of approved vaccines in the EU
New vaccines are being introduced to the market at warp speed. According to the WHO website, there are more than 50 different COVID-19 vaccine candidates in trials. Several of them have shown a 95 % efficacy in preventing symptomatic infections of the coronavirus.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been until recently the only vaccine authorized for use in the EU but as of Wednesday this week, a vaccine developed by the US company Moderna got the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and European Commission for its use.
Both vaccines work in a similar way against the virus. By using synthetic messenger RNA, they target the spike proteins the virus uses to enter human cells — providing the cells with instructions about how to produce a small amount of the protein, and as a response, it activates the body’s immune system.
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine seems to be effective against new coronavirus mutations
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Two highly contagious new mutations of coronavirus were recently identified in the UK and South Africa. It is not uncommon for a virus to mutate over time yet the world has been put into an alert mode whether the existing and approved vaccines will be effective in fighting off the mutated variants of the virus.
The N501Y mutation is believed to be more easily transmissible due to a slight alteration in the spike protein of the virus. New research conducted by the drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech suggests the antibodies from the vaccine are able to neutralize the mutated virus.
According to Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists, the vaccine seems to be effective against the N501Y mutation and others they’ve tested before.
“So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,” said Dormitzer. “That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.”
The second mutation called the E484K mutation is yet to undergo similar tests.
If needed, both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can be tweaked in response to new virus mutations — scientists have indicated these alterations could be made in as little as six weeks.
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