Houston-area doctor speaks regarding Moderna, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

The Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines are showing promise and that is good news for other vaccine candidates.

"Making a COVID-19 vaccine is not as complicated as you might think. It's kind of an old school problem in virology. It's all about inducing an immune response against the spike protein of the virus," said Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine.

He explains that inducing virus-neutralizing antibodies through the spike protein is something virologists and vaccine experts have been doing for decades. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, he says, all target the spike protein as does the vaccine developed by the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and many others.

"But, there are differences of opinion which is the best way to do that. We think it's through a recombinant protein vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna are doing it through [messenger] RNA vaccines," Dr. Hotez added.


The vaccine developed by BCM began clinical trials in India this week. The results of the trial are expected by early 2021.

Dr. Hotez says because of the new technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, they will be more costly to produce and distribute and it is unknown how long their protective immunity will last.

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On the contrary, the BCM vaccine is low-cost and requires simple refrigeration and more than a billion doses could be underway soon.

"This is a low-cost recombinant protein COVID vaccine that uses the same technology that’s used to make recombinant hepatitis B vaccine. It's a 40-year-old technology," Dr. Hotez told FOX 26.

Dr. Hotez says he often gets asked what vaccine he will get.

"I'm not waiting on any one particular vaccine, because one, we're not going to have a lot of choices early on as there are limited doses of each made available," he said. "Second, they all work by inducing an immune response against the spike protein."

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As the end of the pandemic finally appears to be in sight, he urges people to stay the course on practicing social distancing and mask wearing.

"It's a matter of keeping you and your family alive for the next three months -- until we start gearing up vaccinating the whole country," he said. "And, the numbers are pretty terrible. The new estimates from the Institute of Health Metrics says that 17,000 Texans will die between now and February."

Those deaths are preventable.