The Latest: Moderna’s vaccine is *thisclose*

Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog
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3 min readDec 18, 2020


Dear Reader,

I’m thrilled to end the week with more exciting news: The United States will likely have a second approved Covid-19 vaccine very soon. A panel of medical experts advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted in favor of approving Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use yesterday. The FDA is expected to follow that advice any moment now.

Here are three stories on the Moderna vaccine:

💉 A Second Covid-19 Vaccine Is Slated for Approval. How Does It Differ From the First One?

💉 Does the Moderna Vaccine Prevent Transmission?

💉 What to Know About Serious Adverse Effects and Deaths in the Moderna Vaccine Data

This emergency approval would greatly increase the number of people who can be vaccinated against Covid-19. It couldn’t come at a better time — the U.S. is continuing to battle rising cases and hospitalizations. Thank goodness for science.

Follow our Medium Coronavirus Blog for regular updates, and read some of the essential stories we’ve curated below.

Be well,

Alexandra Sifferlin
Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog

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What we’re talking about on the Blog:

Consider using Covid-19 exposure apps. As my colleague Yasmin Tayag reports, apps that tell you when you’ve been exposed to someone with Covid-19 could be very helpful — if people use them. While contact tracing is supposed to help identify people at risk for Covid-19, there’s no way to locate strangers people come in contact with at places like the grocery store or bank. Bluetooth-based apps allow phones to communicate with other phones they come into contact with; if one user has logged a positive test result, the other will be notified. Many people avoid the apps’ use for privacy reasons, but Tayag offers a compelling case for embracing them. Read her take here.

What the descendants of a Tuskegee Syphilis Study survivor have to say about Covid-19. ZORA editor Morgan Jerkins spoke with two descendants of one of the 600 Black men who were unknowingly a part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, a United States Public Health Service (USPHS) project that left hundreds of men untreated for the disease and misled about the purpose of the study. The interview, in Jerkins’ words, is to “bridge the gap between the past and present and underscore the nuances across Black American anxieties, the legacy of experimentation on marginalized people, and the current global pandemic.” Read the full interview, which includes insights on the Covid-19 vaccine.

A fast vaccine can still be a good vaccine. Chana Davis, PhD, a genetics scientist, has written a thorough piece explaining the Covid-19 vaccine timeline and why a fast vaccine does not mean a risky vaccine. “Covid-19 vaccines are required to clear all the same hurdles as past vaccines in order to gain regulatory approval,” she writes. “Their compressed timelines do not reflect less rigorous testing; they reflect the fact that Covid-19 vaccine development was an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ global priority.” Read her full explainer.

A few more smart reads:

When Can We Stop Wearing Masks?

A Vaccine Has Arrived and the U.S. Is Still Screwing Up

Is Germany Losing the Fight Against the Winter Surge?

Covid Casualties That Will Haunt Us Forever

4 Stories for Understanding the Latest Covid-19 Science

After Receiving the Covid Vaccine Tuesday, Here’s One Issue to Consider



Alexandra Sifferlin
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Health and science journalist. Former editor of Medium’s Covid-19 Blog and deputy editor at Elemental. TIME Magazine writer before that