Although many were initially optimistic that a quick end would wrap up the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that the disease has stayed around for longer than anyone expected. First identified in late 2019, the disease is known for its flu-like symptoms and extremely high contagiousness. With over 100 million confirmed cases and millions dead [1], what’s next in store for mankind?

Vaccine Development

Within weeks of the initial outbreak, scientists in China isolated a strain of the virus and published its DNA sequence, triggering an international response and providing the first stepping stone for a vaccine [2]. The World Health Organization stated in February 2020 that it did not expect a vaccine to be available in less than eighteen months, largely due to how quickly the virus evolves and mutates [3]. Various governments began working together to build a vaccine, with four prototypes entering clinical testing in March [4]. Currently, there are more than ten different vaccines developed by various institutions around the world with varying success rates. Canada has approved four different vaccines, the two most common being the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

Understanding the Vaccine

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are authorized for use in Canada, are RNA vaccines. Unlike traditional vaccines that inject dead or dying pathogens into the body, giving immune cells “practice” against a severely weakened foe, RNA vaccines teach body cells to make the same proteins found on the surface of COVID-19. Then, immune cells are “tricked” into believing there is a threat, and begin manufacturing antibodies, virus-killing proteins. A vaccinated person is now protected from COVID-19; any COVID-19 virus foolish enough to enter an antibody-protected human faces only one certainty – death [5]. 

Vaccine Distribution

Due to extreme logistical challenges, the Canadian government is considerably overwhelmed at this time with a mess of bureaucracy between federal, provincial, and local governments. This may be panic-inducing for you, dear citizen, but you can rest assured that the vaccine is coming. 

The federal government has ordered a number of vaccines from different institutions around the world, which are busy manufacturing much-needed vaccines for many different countries. Thus, it is not possible to get vaccines delivered in such a short time. Currently, in Ontario, the government is vaccinating high-risk individuals that are most likely to get sick, including the elderly and front-line workers [16]. The Ontario government estimates mass vaccinations will occur between April and July, although given the frequent delays many specialists believe it may take as long as September to get it done [17]. 

The best course of action for the majority of citizens right now is to continue respecting pandemic guidelines. Wear your masks, stay home, stop going to gatherings and stay away from other people. Every action (or lack thereof) you take that stops the spread could be a life saved in a senior care home or hospital room. Let’s work together to keep as many people of the Earth alive and well as we await the arrival of the return to normalcy.

Infographic by: Zoe Cheng