Breaking News
More () »

The approval process of the COVID-19 vaccine explained

Many people in the Tennessee Valley have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine, but many are still hesitant due the quickness of its approval.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Thousands of people in Alabama have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet some are still hesitant due to the quick process of creating and approving the vaccine. 

The dean of the UAB School of Medicine in Huntsville, broke down the process that took place in order to approve this vaccine and many vaccines before it. 

"The two vaccines that are approved right now under emergency use authorization, are the Pfizer and Moderna, both of which are using this MRNA technology," said Dr. Rodger Smalligan, Dean of UAB School of Medicine in Huntsville. 

RELATED: UAB Hospital on risks that exist between vaccine doses, impact of record-breaking holiday travel

The first step in this process of approval is called the preclinical phase.

"Before these vaccines even get injected into the first person, there are many, many trials that are done in lab animals and in petri dishes," said Smalligan. 

They are looking for side effects, fertility effects and dangerous reactions. Once this step is cleared, it's onto phase one.

"Phase one involves a very brave, small group of people, this is like 20 to 100 people who say, I am willing to take this vaccine that's never been given to a human," said Smalligan. 

RELATED: Operation Warp Speed: More than 7 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be distributed this week

This phase's primary goal is looking into the safety of the vaccines when it comes to humans, and whether these people formed antibodies against the virus or not. If antibodies were formed, then it's onto phase two.

"Phase two is usually several hundred, probably close to a thousand volunteers, where they're doing the same thing but still looking for, are there side effects we missed in the small group and how is the immune response," said Smalligan. 

After all of that is cleared, phase three takes place. In the past, this phase has usually taken the longest, but because the virus is sadly running rampant, it has been made a lot easier to get done quickly due to the emergency use authorization. 

"Phase three is the double-blind vaccination, so that means, you get your volunteers, and you get them to agree to take either a placebo injection or the vaccine, and then they go out into public, they live their lives, and they're exposed like all of us. Once you have a certain number of people infected, you stop, you break the code and you look at, okay, who among those that got effected had gotten the vaccine and who had gotten placebo," said Smalligan. 

RELATED: More people are getting vaccinated, but precautions will still need to be taken for time being