Have questions about COVID-19 vaccines? Here are some answers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the Carolinas face a surge in COVID-19 cases, two vaccines are proving to have a stunningly high success rate.

Biotech company Moderna, which has been testing its vaccine in Charlotte, announced Monday that its vaccine is 94.5% effective against fighting COVID-19.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

With 500 people in Charlotte taking part in Moderna’s phase 3 trials, some of your neighbors are likely already immunized.

“By the end of this year, we said that in the United States we expect to have 20 million doses. So I think by the end of the year, hopefully, we could start to vaccinate people,” the company’s chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks said.

The announcement comes one week after drugmaker Pfizer said an early analysis revealed its COVID-19 vaccine is at least 90% effective.

>>Testing timeline: What’s ahead for COVID-19 vaccines

Both companies have said their vaccines could be available by the end of the year and the thought of an approved vaccine on the horizon is news many people have been waiting on since COVID-19 hit earlier this year. The virus has claimed the lives of loved ones, kept families at home and shuttered businesses.

The vaccines have been developed quickly and many people have questions about them.

Channel 9 is committed to getting you the answers you need and below are some frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. Anchor Damany Lewis spoke to Dr. Ryan Shelton, one of the local doctors leading vaccine trials, to learn more about what you should expect from the vaccine.

Q: Moderna says its vaccine is 94.5% effective. How did they come up with that number?

A: They gave 15,000 patients a placebo. Of them, about 90 got the virus. Another 15,000 got the vaccine, of that group, 5 got the virus.

Q: Is it safe?

A: Yes, we would never make it to phase 3 if there were a blatant risk.

Q: Does the Moderna vaccine have any side effects?

A: There have been no significant safety concerns. The main side effects were fatigue, muscle ache and injection site pain.

Q: What’s the difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines?

A: The Moderna vaccine is more spaced out. You get the first shot and the second shot is given 28 days later versus the Pfizer where you get the first one and then the second shot is given 21 days later or 3 weeks later.

Pfizer hopes to have 50 million doses ready by the end of the year while Moderna’s goal is 20 million.

In addition, transporting the vaccine could be tricky. Pfizer’s vaccine must be kept at a deep freeze, -94 degrees. Moderna’s vaccine just need a regular freezer, staying at about -4 degrees. It also lasts longer at room temperature.

Q: It’s not a winner take all contest. There will likely be multiple vaccines available, so can patients pick which one they get?

A: It depends on what’s available at the time.

‘I wanted to help’

Dr. Anita Blanchard is a research psychologist and professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. When she heard Pfizer was doing a trial of its coronavirus vaccine, she said she didn’t hesitate to join.

Now with both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine showing promise, she’s said she’s really glad she did.

“I am so excited to be part of this and see such great effectiveness. I honestly think that’s well beyond what I was thinking,” Blanchard said.

Richard and Carlene Bechen said they fully support a coronavirus vaccine.

“I have four stents in my chest and taking a vaccine is a small risk compared to the coronavirus,” Richard Bechen said.

“I don’t want the people I love to become ill, I want to be with our grandchildren, so, yeah, I would absolutely do the vaccine,” Carlene Bechen said.

Owner of Park Road Books Sally Brewster is only doing curbside pick up since one of her part-time employees tested positive for the virus. Brewster said she’s more than ready for the vaccine to get here.

“I miss seeing a lot of my customers. A lot of them have not ventured out since March. I miss seeing them. I miss hugging them. That’s the worst part about this,” she said.