When Pfizer announced its preliminary COVID-19 vaccine results last week, it provided a ray of hope as the pandemic’s second wave rolled forward. The preliminary data indicated it was over 90 per cent effective. A week later, Moderna announced that its own vaccine’s preliminary results were also very promising, with 95 per cent effectiveness.

Yesterday, Pfizer grabbed the spotlight back by releasing its final results along with two months of safety data: effectiveness of 95 per cent. An application for emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the works. Obviously it would require manufacturing, distribution and administration of the vaccine on a massive scale even if that authorization is successful, but it's definitely good news.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines — a new type of platform that hasn’t been used before. Today in The Conversation Canada, physician scientist Julian Willett of McGill University explains how these mRNA vaccines work, and what they might mean in terms of an eventual return to normal.

Also today:


Patricia Nicholson

Health + Medicine Editor

A volunteer gets an injection of Moderna’s possible COVID-19 vaccine on July 27, 2020. Moderna announced Nov. 16 that its vaccine is proving highly effective in a major trial. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

COVID-19 vaccines: How Pfizer’s and Moderna’s 95% effective mRNA shots work

Julian Daniel Sunday Willett, McGill University

Two pharma companies have announced early COVID-19 vaccine trial results with over 90 per cent effectiveness. What does that mean for getting back to normal?

Why has the Doug Ford government been so reluctant to take action amid the second wave of COVID-19? THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Why Doug Ford is stumbling during COVID-19’s second wave

Mark Winfield, York University, Canada

Is Ontario Premier Doug Ford's mishandling of the second wave of COVID-19 a byproduct of his pro-business sympathies?

Winter drowning rates are highest in countries with strong ice-fishing cultures and temperatures that hover near freezing. (Shutterstock)

Winter drownings may increase in northern countries as ice thins with climate change

Sapna Sharma, York University, Canada

Winter drownings become more common on warmer days or when rain has fallen on snow, leaving the ice thinner, weaker, and less stable.

The extreme intoxication defence is often successful when used, usually in cases involving male violence against women. (Unsplash)

Why the ‘extreme intoxication’ defence is dangerous for women

Amy Swiffen, Concordia University; Naomi Barney Purdie, McGill University

Evidence suggests that the defence of extreme intoxication isn't rarely used, and is often successful in cases involving male violence against women.

Isolating prisoners in cells with no contact and little activity over a sustained period of time amounts to torture. (Shutterstock)

Solitary confinement by any other name is still torture

Linda Mussell, Queen's University, Ontario; Marsha Rampersaud, Queen's University, Ontario

While seemingly an alternative to solitary confinement, Structured Intervention Units have been a catastrophic failure, especially for imprisoned people with mental illness.

La Conversation Canada

Une étoile filante pendant la pluie de météores des Perséides. Bientôt, des milliers de satellites envahiront le ciel nocturne. Shutterstock

Les satellites Starlink nous empêcheront bientôt d’observer les étoiles

Samantha Lawler, University of Regina

Les satellites de SpaceX vont peupler le ciel nocturne, ce qui aura une incidence sur notre façon d’observer les étoiles. Et ce n’est que le début des mégaconstellations de satellites privés.


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