Why aren’t we talking about this?

Deepti Pradhan
5 min readDec 10, 2020

Companies developing a COVID-19 vaccine rely on a phalanx of smart and dedicated scientists conducting pathbreaking research to put an end to this pandemic

Back on July 22 this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced an agreement with Pfizer Inc. for large-scale production and nationwide delivery of 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, following the vaccine’s successful manufacture and approval. According to the agreement, Pfizer would get $1.95 billion for the 100 million doses — this would be enough vaccine for 50 million people, or about 15% of the US population. Three weeks later, on August 11, another agreement was announced — this time with Moderna, Inc. to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. As in the case of the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine will also be enough for 50 million people. In both announcements is an important point: “The vaccine would be available to the American people at no cost. As is customary with government-purchased vaccines, healthcare professionals could charge insurers for the cost of administering the vaccine.”

In all likelihood, based on early results from both Pfizer and Moderna, the FDA will complete approval of both vaccines in the next ten days. But reality gets in the way of the best laid plans — Pfizer has recently indicated that scale-up of the raw material supply chain took longer than expected, and as a consequence rather than the expected 100 million doses by the end of this year, only 50 million doses will likely be available.

Follow the science

Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are using never before used technology for vaccine design. Traditionally, vaccines to viruses have been either inactivated viruses such as the Salk polio vaccine and some influenza vaccines; or attenuated viruses such as the MMR vaccine; and more recently recombinant vaccines such as Flublok. Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are RNA based vaccines. Very simply, this method ingeniously uses information about viral proteins, and the human cell’s manufacturing machinery.

Almost all living cells have the capacity to produce proteins based on a certain set of instructions. These instructions are…

Deepti Pradhan

Employed at Yale University, Deepti is primarily a scientist & patient advocate. She runs Tilde Cafe, a forum to make science accessible (www.tildecafe.org)