Update on COVID-19 Vaccines and Variants

There have been many recent COVID-19 updates. Two vaccines have gone into use in the US, and more have entered or are about to enter the third stage of clinical trials. At the same time, multiple new variants of the virus have been discovered worldwide.


There are currently two vaccines recommended by the CDC. Neither has been approved or licensed by the FDA, but both are authorized for emergency use.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Consists of a series of two shots received 21 days apart
  • Is recommended for people aged 16 and older
  • Is 95% effective at preventing COVID

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Consists of a series of two shots received 28 days apart
  • Is recommended for people aged 18 and older
  • Is 94.1% effective at preventing COVID

Three additional vaccines are in or about to enter phase three of clinical trials in the US: the AstraZeneca, Janssen, and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines.



New variants of COVID-19 have recently emerged in the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil, and all have been detected in the US

The variant hailing from the U.K., called B.1.1.7:

  • Spreads more easily and quickly than other variants
  • May be deadlier than other variants, though more research is needed to confirm this
  • Was first found in the US at the end of December 2020

The variant hailing from South Africa, called B.1.351:

  • Shares some mutations with B.1.1.7
  • Was first found in the US at the end of January 2021

The variant hailing from Brazil, called P.1:

Research is still being done to determine whether or not vaccines are effective against these variants. Variants are detectable by test.


COVID-19 in Illinois

As of January 30th, Illinois has 1,123,873 cases of and 19,203 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19.

Regions 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 have reached Phase 4 mitigations.

  • These regions constitute the central, northwestern, and southern parts of the state.
  • At Phase 4, hospitals have the capacity to accommodate a surge of new cases. Testing is widely available. Restaurants can open with limited capacity and in accordance with public health procedures. Schools can open with social distancing in place. Gatherings of 50 or fewer are allowed.

Regions 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 have reached Tier 1 mitigations.

  • These regions constitute the greater Chicago area.
  • Tier 1 is a level more strict than Phase 4. Restaurants may operate with indoor dining, but at no more than 25% capacity. Gatherings are limited to 25 people or 25% room capacity.

Region 4 has reached Tier 2 mitigations.

  • This region constitutes Metro East.
  • Tier 2 is a level more strict than Tier 1. Indoor dining is not allowed at restaurants. Gatherings are limited to 10 people.

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