March 2021

The COVID-19 Vaccine


A shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine is unloaded from a plane at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon, February 13, 2021.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic scientists learned that the virus spread very quickly. Over just a few months, thousands of people ended up in the hospital. Hospital systems around the world quickly became overwhelmed. Doctors and nurses needed help in the fight against COVID-19, and quickly. They needed a vaccine.

Before 2020, the fastest vaccine ever made took 4 years. In fact, most vaccines have taken between 10 and 15 years to develop. To create a COVID-19 vaccine quickly, scientists around the world worked together. They shared resources, information, and insights. Governments also poured billions of dollars into vaccine research. As work continued through the summer of 2020, it became clear that a vaccine would be possible by the end of the year. By March 2021, seven different COVID-19 vaccines had been approved for use around the world. Miraculously, scientists developed a vaccine for COVID-19 in less than a year.

Now the world faces another equally big challenge. How do we give vaccine shots to the more than 7 billion people living around the world? To complicate things even more, some of the vaccines have to be stored at really cold temperatures. This means that special freezers are needed for these vaccines. There is also the issue of making sure vaccines are given equally to all countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with governments and manufacturers to distribute the vaccines fairly.

There is still a long way to go, but progress is already being made. As of February 22, over 217 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine—almost 3 percent of the world’s population. So far, about 19 percent of people in the United States have been given a vaccine. President Biden announced that he expects that everyone in the United States would be able to receive a vaccine by August 2021.

image credit: ©Mohamed Azakir/Reuters/Alamy
Question 1
How long did it take for scientists to develop a vaccine for COVID-19?

Question 2
What big challenge do we face now that COVID-19 vaccines have been developed?

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