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First Anniversary of COVID Vaccines—What We Know Now

December 14, 2021, was the first anniversary of the COVID-19 vaccine’s administration. On December 8, 2020, a woman in the United Kingdom was the first recipient. Since then, various healthcare workers across the globe have given more than eight billion shots. 

Development of Vaccines and Regulations over the Past Year 

Scientists have studied severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) for years, not just since 2020. These early efforts gave COVID-19 vaccine research and development a head start. Another factor has been the number of infected individuals, allowing for large samples of clinical trial participants. 

Here is an overview of COVID vaccine development and vaccination eligibility since research began: 

  • January 2020: Release of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and the commencement of preclinical studies 
  • Late April 2020: Beginning of phase I/II of clinical trials 
  • Late July 2020: The start of phase II/III of more clinical trials 
  • Beginning of October 2020: Continuous submission of data to regulators and approving officials 
  • Early December 2020: Approval of vaccines for emergency use in some countries, with the United Kingdom being the first to license the use of Pfizer 
  • January 2021: First person in the world receives AstraZeneca vaccine 
  • January 12, 2021: Vaccine rollout announced for people 65 years of age or older and individuals with certain medical conditions 
  • January 19, 2021: Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca begin testing on adolescents 
  • January 26, 2021: Moderna beginning tests of booster against variants 
  • February 23, 2021: Expedited clinical trials for boosters 
  • March 30, 2021: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces launch of Operation Warp Speed 
  • April 2021: Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna begin work on boosters. 
  • April 18, 2021: Half of U.S. adults receive at least one dose of vaccine. 
  • April 19, 2021: All U.S. states open vaccine eligibility to all adults. 
  • May 4, 2021: President Biden announces goal of 70% vaccination by July 4. 
  • May 10, 2021: FDA approves Pfizer/BioNTech for children 12-15 years old 
  • May 27, 2021: Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline vaccine development begins. 
  • October 21, 2021: Adults aged 65 and over and individuals with certain health conditions declared eligible for booster 
  • Late October 2021: Children aged 5-11 eligible for initial vaccine doses 
  • November 19, 2021: Adults of all ages eligible for booster 
  • Early January 2022: Children aged 12-17 years eligible for Pfizer/BioNTech booster 

The Effects of Vaccine Rollouts on Quarantines and Staffing 

The U.S. saw changes to quarantine guidelines as new vaccines and variants emerged. Early on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had a long-standing recommendation of quarantining for two weeks after coronavirus exposure. In late February of 2021, the CDC recommended that vaccinated individuals did not need to quarantine after exposure, as long as two weeks had gone by after their second vaccination dose. 

In late December of 2021, the (CDC) shortened their quarantine guidelines to five days for asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID and justified this change by citing research indicating that transmission occurs in the early stages of infection. 

As vaccines became more available, some government agencies and private companies have attempted to enhance workplace safety by mandating employee vaccination. In November of 2021, President Biden announced an Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) mandate that companies employing 100 or more workers require full vaccination or conduct weekly COVID tests. 

As of early January 2022, the Supreme Court is hearing a case intending to overturn the OSHA mandate and President Biden’s vaccination mandate for healthcare providers receiving Medicaid and Medicare payments, which he also announced in November. 

Such mandates have led to resignations and firings due to noncompliance. Some healthcare organizations have argued that the orders have led to massive staff shortages. However, entities like Mayo Clinic and Allina Health have refuted those claims, arguing that shortages have not necessarily been linked to vaccination requirements. 

What We Have Learned about Vaccines 

One significant innovation has been the rise of mRNA vaccines. Unlike traditional vaccines that comprise proteins or disabled strains of the virus, messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) inoculations tell cells to produce the proteins that activate the body’s immunity. 

Variants like Delta and Omicron have attracted considerable attention. In June of 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), maintained that vaccines provide sufficient protection against variants but have decreased effectiveness. Since December of 2021, Omicron has surpassed Delta in prevalence, and vaccines against this variant also show lower efficacy. 

We will likely continue to see the development of more mRNA vaccines. As infection rates increase, the ability to develop more vaccines will grow due to the high numbers of infected individuals eligible for clinical trial participation. People can also expect to see regular or yearly booster shots. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s boosters currently provide about six months of protection. 

Research and materials for this article were compiled, written, and distributed on behalf of the National Public Health Information Coalition. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the various authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Public Health Information Coalition or its members.