The Food and Drug Administration may approve a Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use within the next few weeks. Within days of that green light, millions of doses will start making their way to patients. The distribution and administration will be logistically complex and difficult. And the study of a vaccine’s safety and efficacy doesn’t end with FDA approval. Researchers will be gathering evidence on how well these products work in the real world.
The vaccine is likely to reduce the odds of serious or symptomatic infection. But will vaccinated patients be less likely to be infected at all? Do the vaccines confer, as preliminary evidence suggested, “mucosal immunity,” in which immune cells in the respiratory tract can help reduce the chance of spreading the virus? If so, parts of the country with low spread and high rates of vaccination may be able to ease up on mitigation measures like wearing masks and distancing.
Public-health authorities also need to monitor which patients received a particular vaccine and make sure they follow up for the second dose that most of these vaccines require to be fully effective.
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