From Allergies to Morality—The Latest on COVID-19 Vaccines

Staff at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC, prepare COVID-19 vaccines. December 15, 2020 Image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty
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Staff at Howard University Hospital in Washington, DC, prepare COVID-19 vaccines. December 15, 2020 Image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

“This is like having gold.”
 
That’s how Joseph Varon—a Texas doctor made famous by a heart-wrenching photo of him embracing a COVID-19 patient—feels about receiving Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine after working 277 consecutive days fighting the virus, CNN reports.
 
As of Monday morning, over 614,000 Americans—including President-elect Joe Biden—have received a vaccine dose.
 
The European Union has now greenlit the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, clearing it for deployment across the 27 nation-bloc by month’s end, ABC reports.

More Vaccine Developments:
 
The UK Variant
Pfizer’s partner BioNTech has expressed “scientific confidence” that its COVID-19 vaccine will work against the UK variant. Still, experiments are being done to make sure… and results will take about 2 weeks, AP reports.
 
Allergic Reactions
Scientists are also rushing to study a rare but severe allergic reaction experienced by some recipients of Pfizer’s vaccine… but not Moderna’s, The Washington Post reports.
 
One theory is that the culprit is polyethylene glycol (PEG), a chemical common in medicines and household products, but never before used in a vaccine, Science reports.
 
Moral Questions
The possibility that certain vaccines involve pork products has raised debate about whether they will be embraced by Orthodox Jews and Muslims—though many religious leaders accept medical exceptions to this rule, PBS reports.  
 
The Vatican clarified its position that it is “morally acceptable” to take vaccines developed using cell lines from aborted fetuses—used in some COVID-19 vaccine research—and that the morality of being vaccinated is based not just on one’s own health, “but also on the duty to pursue the common good.”

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