Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine: What to know

COVID 19 is the coronavirus caused by the virus SARS-Co V2 has quickly cornered all sides of the globe. Over 2 million people have died thus far from the virus that millions of people have contracted. Medical experts and researchers have been working tirelessly 24 hours 7 days a week to produce an effective safety vaccine that was ready for use by December 2020. This blog post takes an in-depth look at the different types of COVID-19 vaccines and how they work, how safe they are, and how to get one.

Which vaccines have approval?
Multiple vaccines are now available in different countries. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) needs to approve the vaccines. To prove that they are safe and effective, they first need to pass through three phases of tests. Tens of thousands of participants are involved in phrase 3.
At the time of publishing this article, two vaccines have FDA approval in the U.S.:
• Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
• Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
Developed in Germany, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received approval from the FDA in the form of an ‘Emergency use authorization’.

43,000 people were involved in a phase 3 trial with around half receiving a placebo and half receiving two doses of the vaccine, 21 days apart. The final results proved that the vaccine was 95% effective at protecting against the COVID-19 virus.
The vaccine developed in Cambridge, MA, Moderna, received approval for emergency use in the U.S. in December. 30,000 phase 3 trial volunteers received a placebo or two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart. The results indicated that the vaccine was 94% effective.

Other vaccines
Vaccines that have been approved for use in different countries:
• The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine (United Kingdom)
• Coronavac, developed by Sinovac (China)
• The Sputnik V vaccine (Russia)
• Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech (India)
The Novavax vaccine is in phase 3 trials as is Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine. Both vaccines were developed in the U.S.A.
Keep up-to-date with the latest developments using the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

Are the vaccines safe?
There are several approval trial stages before any of the vaccines can be approved by a country’s health authority. The FDA and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S.A. work hard for public safety. And vaccine trials involve an ever-growing number of volunteers. Phase 3 had tens of thousands of participants.
The exact long-term effects of any new medical vaccine are unknown in the early stages. It is key to balance the potential risks with the known dangers of developing COVID-19.
A patient who has had a COVID-19 vaccine injection may experience flu-like symptoms and other side effects like:
• pain at the injection site
• swelling at the injection site
• fatigue
• headache and muscle pain
• a fever
The body’s immune response is intensified after the second dose of the vaccine because the side effects may be worse.
The CDC did a great job by allowing participants to keep them informed about any side effects through a smartphone-based app called V-safe. This information is valuable to monitor the vaccine’s impact on the participants and assist the ongoing work towards safety.
The vaccine should only be dispensed from a licensed healthcare professional and must follow every guideline. Patients may get the vaccine from the local hospital, clinic, or pharmacy. If you have had a previous allergic reaction to vaccines, you will need to alert your healthcare worker before they administer the vaccine. If you have an immediate allergic reaction, see your doctor immediately.

Getting the vaccine
At the moment, vaccine doses are limited and for this reason, the vaccine will only be administered to healthcare workers, people aged 75 years and older and first responders. More people will receive the doses as it becomes available. The Vaccine is free and the government will distribute it to hospitals and clinics.

Types of COVID-19 vaccine
Researchers have used various approaches to developing different types of vaccine, including:
• whole virus vaccines
• recombinant protein subunit vaccines
• replication-incompetent vector vaccines
• nucleic acid vaccines
Let’s explore these types in more detail:

Whole virus vaccine
These are known as ‘inactivated’ or ‘weakened’ virus vaccines containing dead or inactivated forms of the virus. These vaccines do not contain live viruses and therefore cannot cause an infection. The manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccines are Sinovac, Bharat Biotec, and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

Recombinant protein subunit vaccine
This vaccine is designed to trigger the body’s strong immune response. The vaccine cannot cause an infection because it does not contain a live pathogen. Researchers are working hard to make a ‘Recombinant Protein Subunit Vaccine’ that targets the spike protein which the new coronavirus uses to latch onto and infect cells. Nanoparticle technology is being developed by a company called Novavax.

Replication-incompetent vector vaccine
This vaccine carries genes that the body can express to provide immunity. The vaccine produced by Astra Zeneca has been approved in several countries, is a replication-incompetent vector vaccine. A harmless, weakened adenovirus is used to provoke an immune response. The virus was discovered in chimpanzees and was then redesigned to be more suitable for humans. This type of virus which can be found in other vaccines also reacts with the body to produce a strong immune response. An Ebola vaccine got approval and may provide the basis for further development of other vaccines.

Nucleic acid vaccine
This is an mRNA-based vaccine that involves injecting genetic material called mRNA into live host cells. Each vaccine is manufactured to isolate a particular pathogen. In the COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA has information for manufacturing coronavirus spike protein. The vaccine initiates the immune system and the body produces antibodies to fight the virus. Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna have manufactured this vaccine. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are already available for use.

How do vaccines work?
Vaccines have a clever little trick up their sleeve. They influence the immune system to make antibodies to defend against diseases. In simpler terms – they make the body believe that it is already infected with the virus. And all of this is achieved without making the patient ill.

Once exposed to the vaccine, the body develops immunity to the disease. The body can fight off the infection such as the coronavirus if it occurs.
The immune system must remain stable and not be thrown into overdrive. The goal for researchers is to develop a vaccine that works without unwanted side effects. Safe vaccines are an absolute must for all patients especially those with pre-existing conditions such as allergies and diabetes, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and senior citizens.

Preventing infection?
While this vaccine is still in production, people need to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe from COVID 19.
Follow these easy steps for reducing the risk of infection:
• Wear a face-mask in public
• Washing your hands with soap and water as often as you can – for up to 30 seconds
• Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
• Cover a sneeze or cough with a tissue or elbow
• Avoid touching your face
• Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces people frequently touch
• Avoid handshakes
• Stay away from sick people
• Maintain a 6 feet social distance
• Avoid crowds
• Be aware of symptoms like a high fever and a cough
If people need emergency care for COVID-19, call in advance to let the clinic or hospital know about their condition.
Follow these recommendations for anyone who may have been exposed to the virus:
• Contact a healthcare worker
• Keep track of your symptoms
• Isolate by staying away from others
• Seek emergency medical care
Some common COVID-19 symptoms include:
• High fever
• Persistent cough
• Loss or change of smell or taste
Throughout the world, COVID-19 has become a major health scare and challenge.
Medical scientists and governments are working hard to develop and administer vaccines and educate the public on other preventive measures.
The ultimate goal is for all people to have the COVID-19 vaccination. While waiting for the vaccine to become available, you should follow all guidelines from public health and medical experts.
So, now that you have discovered more safe ways to travel during COVID, you can now reserve your seat and book your flights to some amazing spots around the world. www.lowpriceflights.co.za
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The A380, a giant of the skies that just didn’t take flight.

When you see the A380 for the first time, there’s something special about it. It’s a large aircraft – the biggest passenger aircraft ever built with a wingspan that could easily fit across a football field. If the aircraft was fitted only with economy seats, it would take 800 passengers. We all know how uncomfortable a long-haul flight can be but aboard the A380 a flight of 16 hours half-way across the world is like a ride in a Rolls Royce of the skies. This has made it a favourite amongst passengers and crew with its spacious and well-heeled interiors.

 

Airlines saw this differently: Airbus has only sold 250 aircraft that has rolled off the production line with early estimates, Airbus was hoping to sell 750. Now its production line will go quiet at the end of 2021. The A380 has only been in service for 13 years. It was conceived on a philosophy of a bygone era in which the 747 ruled the skies in large numbers. And with a hefty price tag of over $450 million per aircraft, this engineering marvel eventually had its wings clipped by rising fuel prices and maintenance costs. The Coronavirus pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the aviation industry which will reduce the lifespan of this mighty jet. The end is approaching rather quickly with multiple aircraft already having been sent to the scrapyard by several airlines. One wonders how such an aircraft took to the skies in the first place.

 

A ‘747’ for Europe  

Airbus A380 in flight

The 747 is the original jumbo jet from which the A380 was inspired by. For many people within Airbus, this aircraft would rule the skies for decades to come. But for a brief period, the unthinkable was considered where Boeing and Airbus would work together to produce a Super Jumbo. Both companies eventually joined forces in 1993 and shared a study of the potential market size of a large aircraft. They both ended up with different conclusions and so they never joined to work together. In the 1990s, Airbus had just 20% of the large aircraft market and looked at growing their market share and working with Boeing seemed like a good idea as it would not create competition. However, Boeing was never really ready to give up its highly successful 747 programmes and it was in 1996 that Airbus realised this and decided to go it alone. By 2000 the demand for the 747 was 1200 units for the following two decades and Airbus was ready to capture half of this market. Boeing instead saw it differently and decided to build variants of the 747 rather than build a whole new aircraft. Airbus pushed on with the project. Early signs were encouraging for Airbus with 50 initial orders from six airlines

Airbus wanted to take on Boeing at their own game by flying the same routes like the 747 such as London to Singapore. The goal for Airbus was to offer an aircraft that was 20% to 25% more economical. Boeing’s 747 had profited handsomely from the large hubs and a handful of carriers. Passenger numbers had risen sufficiently to create congestion at large airports like JFK in New York, Heathrow in London and  Narita in Tokyo, which all have been running at full capacity. Airbus believed it had the solution by building a larger aircraft thereby getting more people out of the airports with fewer flights. But change was in the air. The popular ‘Hub and spoke’ model was slowly being favoured by the ‘Point to point’ model. Airlines now chose smaller cheaper aircraft over larger more expensive ones to carry passengers on more financially viable routes like the secondary airports which were never congested in the first place. According to one aviation expert and historian, Graham Simons, the world had changed. Smaller more fuel-efficient planes were on the rise and the 747 and A380 would slowly drift away into the scrapyard. The airlines were now heading in a new direction, one with low priced flights to every destination an aircraft can take you point to point.

 

Giant of the Skies

Airbus A350 landing

The unveiling of the A380 took place in Toulouse in 2005 and flew for the first time on 27 April 2005. Chief engineer test pilot Robert Laftontan commented about how gently the plane landed even when it was 100-tons overweight. The aircraft quickly became favoured by pilots on how easy it was to fly and felt like a smaller lighter aircraft. Airbus explored various options in the design phase but eventually settled on two full-length double-decker aircraft which is essentially two widebody aircraft on top of each other. One of the concept designs had two widebody fuselages side by side and using existing components from an A340 Airbus passenger aircraft. There were several configurations and fuselage designs but Airbus, in the end, decided to follow one simple rule: to design the A380 inside an 80-metre box so that it’s compatible with airports. The 80-metre limit was set by airport authorities in the 1990s when it came to the 747 superjumbos. And the A380 is just short of it which thankfully allows it to operate using existing airport infrastructure although some airport gates needed upgrading.

At high speeds, the constrained wingspan creates more drag which in turn increases fuel consumption. More problems were to come for Airbus when the wings failed a load test and had to be reinforced adding extra weight. The four Rolls Royce engines were chosen to sit on these very large wings with Engine Alliance in the United States as a second option. The combined thrust output for these engines is 240 000 pounds providing a lift to its maximum take-off weight of 650 tonnes and within 15 minutes it takes to reach cruising altitude. The Airbus can fly from Dallas to Sydney non-stop, a range of over 15 000 kilometres. Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace engineer called the four-engine aircraft an anachronism in this day and age. At over $40 million per engine, this is a significant cost for the whole aircraft meaning that having four engines, raises the price. Unlike the more favourable option of a twin-engine aircraft, the A380 requires twice more the maintenance, tons more fuel and has a higher carbon emission. At the time Rolls Royce had produced a state of the art engines with the best fuel consumption and power to weight ratio, but in this high tech field of engine development, it took Boeing just a few years to surpass the technology with the Boeing 787. It was hard for Airbus with four winged engines to compete with the newer generation of long-haul more fuel-efficient, twin-engine low-cost aircraft.

 

Comfort

Close up of an Airbus A380 engine

The A380 gave Airbus a chance to showcase the latest technologies, airframe and avionics. But it was passenger comfort that was to receive top priority with a cabin designed to reduce passenger fatigue and increase the quality of their experience, especially on long haul flights. This was achieved with lower noise levels, higher cabin pressurisation and relaxing ambient lighting. Since then this has become standard on all new aircraft. Industry experts agreed that comfort leads the way and influenced the design direction of the aircraft from day one. A mock-up was even built to fly around the world to get feedback from all passengers on what they wanted. These insights were used and influenced the interior design to a great deal. Passengers were so impressed with the interior space and the fact they could stand up straight whilst at the window seat. On aircrafts such as the 737 or A320, you can’t stand up at the window seat because of the low overhead bin but in the A380 the walls are almost vertical. The interior space was set out to allow customisation for airlines to choose and even a shower option was added to the business deck. This was an idea that was well-received by passengers. Features were added like heated marble floors, mood lighting that changed as the aircraft’s environment changed and a bar at the back for the thirsty traveller.

There’s no denying that the aircraft offers genuine levels of comfort and it’s a firm favourite with passengers and crew. It’s quiet and pleasant, has a low cabin noise, sits nicely in the air with pressure and humidity levels not found on any other aircraft. However, storm clouds were brewing when the fuel price started to increase and new more fuel-efficient engines started to debut.

 

Delays and cancellations

A380 cockpit

Singapore Airlines was the first A380 customer on 25 October 2007 to receive their pride and joy, but by the time it was delivered it was late and already outdated. Aviation had shifted, drastically! Smaller more efficient aircraft designed for point to point travel emerged like Boeing’s 787 and Airbus A350 were piling up the orders in the hundreds. The writing was on the wall. The only hope that was left is that history reversed itself and went back to a bygone era when the Super Jumbo’s flew the sky, a return to the ‘hub and spoke’ model. For that, you’d have to go way back to the Pan-Am days. The A380 programme was hit by delays which caused some airlines to cancel their orders and opt for other options like the 787 and A350 even though it would be years before it was delivered. Airlines could already buy a long-range aircraft that was smaller and more fuel-efficient like the Boeing 777-300ER which was soon to become the most popular of the 777 variant. These aircraft allowed for larger margins of profit which pleased the airlines. The 777-300ER was a four-engine Boeing and Airbus killer.

 

No US buyers

A380 in hanger while getting built-up

Emirates Airlines have come to the rescue and kept Airbus afloat, but just temporarily with almost half of all A380’s made, been sold to the Dubai based airline. Who knows how much sooner the A380 would have been shut down if were not for Emirates Airlines ordering 36 A380s in 2018. So, when Airbus’s biggest customer, Emirates cut down its order from 53 to 14 aircraft, Airbus had no choice. Production had to stop. It all had to come to an end for Airbus’s $25 Billion investment that did not yield a profit. Airbus’s European clients had bought aircraft but not nearly enough as expected or hoped for but the real telling sign of success or failure was the US market – where not a single aircraft was sold. Airbus has in the past been very successful in the US with its easy to fly aircraft, so it wasn’t about being patriotic towards Boeing that prevented sales. American Airlines operates a large fleet of A319’s and A321’s. Jet blue’s fleet consists of 80% of Airbus’s and United has the fourth-largest fleet of A350’s. It just came down to the idea of four fuel-hungry engines attached to a very large expensive jet that didn’t fit in with current aviation trends. US airlines were also falling out of favour with their all American homegrown favourite, the 747.

 

Dark skies ahead

Airbus A380 at the passenger terminal

The A380 project turned out to be a $25 billion disaster and Airbus admitted to their mistake. Airbus was juts 10 years too late and was aimed at a niche market and despite its failure, the aircraft paved the way for many brand new technologies. With production now sure to stop in 2021, support for the existing aircraft will continue for as long as they fly which is expected to be around 2040. But its future could end sooner with the advent of Corona Virus making this aircraft most vulnerable. There is no secondary market to speak of with most airlines priding themselves on young fleets – so what could happen is that many 12-year-old jets will be retired and recycled in the soda cans in a very quick time. It was thought the fleet could linger on up until the early 2030s but now the timing could come sooner like the 2020s. Could the airline survive the pandemic because its large size could assist with social distancing within the aircraft, but that would mean dramatically reduced passenger numbers which would be extremely uneconomical to fly half empty. With low demand during this pandemic, it has become difficult to fill up these large aircraft. It is thought that for a while the A380’s capacity won’t be needed and quite a few are currently parked, that may just remain parked.

 

So, now that you have discovered a better way to travel to, you can now reserve your seat and book your Low Price Flights to some amazing spots around the world.  www.lowpriceflights.co.za

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