COVID-19 Vaccination – Could the Jabs Knock You Out?

By Garv Bhardwaj

Is that really so?

Hey everyone, since this is my first article, I would like to set a few standards about what I write and share. In no way is my information the absolute truth, but it is always an agreed upon majority. I will add references to the shared information, which fulfills my burden of proof. If you have a better source of information, please link it in the comments and I’d love to check it out.

This will come as no surprise to you – we have been in the middle of a pandemic for the last 20 months. SARS-CoV-2, also called COVID-19, is prevalent in our lives and fellow readers will relate to the angst and frustration it causes every time they hear about it. As a reference, COVID-19 originates from a family of coronaviruses that cause respiratory issues, including the common cold and pneumonia. COVID-19 has multiple variants that are caused by changes in their genetic sequences. A list of mutations can be seen in Figure 1, but these are susceptible to changes depending on future genome classifications.

Figure 1: Variant information pertaining to COVID-19

While we can discuss numerous issues related to COVID-19, I will talk about one which has the potential to mitigate and end the pandemic on an optimistic note, the vaccination. Vaccination is a method of implementing an immune response to target pathogens by generating antibodies. There are many types of vaccines produced,  mainly classified as the following – toxoid, inactivated, DNA recombinant, protein, and subunit. For COVID-19, Trengoning et al. summarises commercially available and under development vaccines which can be seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Phase III trial information for commercially available vaccines.

From the above table, various discussions can be deduced. Firstly, the trial sizes conducted for a Phase III study for vaccinated appear to be calculated based on the vaccine effectiveness (VE), which is a fundamental design consideration for these studies [3, 4]. However, the studies suggest that trial designs can differ between each other, which creates complexities in a conclusive comparison. Some countries also lack publicly available VE data making it even more complex. But looking at the apparent results, trial sizes have a minimum of 50.7% efficacy (Sinovac Biotech) and reaching up to 95% (Pfizer-BioNTech).

Figure 3: Factors that influence Vaccine Effectiveness

Comparative performances of the vaccines can be concluded to some extent. It is true that all vaccines are not equal and that some perform significantly better than others. But owing to mutations present, demographic conditions (age, underlying conditions, etc), the results are susceptible to change.

Let’s take another study where VE comparison was conducted for five studies as shown in Figure 4. Comparing a large population and hence sample size, the study indicated that Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines successfully prevent severe complications and death. However, mentions of lack of available data indicates that these studies can be improved upon future data releases.

As of August 2021, the cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 (B.1.617.2) globally have been significantly high. So VE considered against the Delta variant will help countries determine the most efficient method of reducing cases and sustaining long term immunity.

Author: Garv Bhardwaj

Hi! My name is Garv and I am a chemical engineer. I love learning, discussing and growing my knowledge in STEM education. Behind the scenes of academics, I tackle climate change by running a student team in Australia. Through my writing, I wish to make people aware of interesting and controversial STEM topics, with the purpose of generating curiosity and inquisitiveness.


Editors: Anushri and Grisha

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