Does The “Best” Vaccine Exist? Here’s How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

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With the recent rollout of COVID-19 vaccines that are slowly trickling into the country, it’s our responsibility to stay informed and educate others on how they actually work. 

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When the COVID-19 vaccines of the different companies were first announced, each one came with its respective efficacy rate. Similar to many, I immediately started to compare one from the other, keeping in mind which one had the highest percentage against the virus. We can’t fully blame one another for doing so because living with constant fear and worry for more than a year now, we all want the best protection there is. However, it’s our social responsibility to read each word up to the fine print on how these COVID-19 vaccines work to avoid spreading false news.

To avoid this, here are some facts on the COVID-19 vaccines that you need to know:

Why You Shouldn’t Compare The Vaccines

Recently, medical frontliners are speaking up about vaccine hesitation which refers to the refusal of vaccines despite the availability of its services. With the continuous surge of positive cases in the country, this now poses a dangerous threat. International and local experts all agree that the vaccine that can protect you the most is the one that can be given the earliest. “The best vaccine is the one in your arm,” Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination told CNN Philippines in its recent interview. One-to-one comparisons are not valid because not all vaccines were studied under the same trial with the equivalent data.

Understanding The Numbers

The percentages you see from the graphs being presented by many news outlets and organizations show the vaccines’ efficacy rate. Pfizer and Modern have the highest efficacy rates while Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are considerably lower which the public can easily perceive as the former two being better. However, this assumption is wrong, and these numbers are not the only basis for how efficient these vaccines work. 

The efficacy rate only indicates the percentage of which a person is less likely to become infected basing upon the vaccines’ clinical trial, not exactly how it will work on each individual in the real world. To understand this further, each vaccine was done in controlled groups in different countries and periods.

How Vaccines Are Tested

Vaccines are created through a large clinical trial in different countries and time periods where thousands of controlled groups are given the vaccines. Half are given the real vaccine while half are given the placebo or the vaccine with no active substance that can affect the health. They are then sent out to live their lives and tracked whether they get infected or not. For example, Johnson & Johnson conducted their trial in South Africa and Brazil where other variants of COVD-19 were present while Moderna and Pfizer were held in the US during the summer of 2020 which had low positive cases. This plays a part in why Johnson & Johnson ended up with a lower efficacy rate than Moderna and Pfizer. If all vaccines were done in the same area and time then we might get different results than what we have now. 

However, an important note to remember here is despite the different efficacy rates, all vaccines had 0% percent of death and hospitalization – this is the real goal of the COVID-19 vaccine program.

The Vaccine Is Not A Cure

The COVID – 19 vaccines do not make you immune. Even if one receives the vaccine, it doesn’t mean you can freely roam around mask-free because the risk of getting infected is still possible. The vaccines’ job is to remove serious disease hospitalization and death from the equation. By giving your body enough protection so that if you do get infected, it’s similar to a simple cold. This will tame the virus so that hospitals don’t overflow with patients, frontliners won’t have to suffer and most of all, stop us from losing our loved ones. Simply put, the vaccines help us stay alive long enough to end this pandemic.