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A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as a threat, destroy it, and to further recognize and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with that agent that it may encounter in the future. Vaccines can be prophylactic (to prevent or ameliorate the effects of a future infection by a natural or "wild" pathogen), or therapeutic (to fight a disease that has already occurred, such as cancer).

There is overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccines are a very safe and effective way to fight and eradicate infectious diseases.

The immune system recognizes vaccine agents as foreign, destroys them, and "remembers" them. When the virulent version of an agent is encountered, the body recognizes the protein coat on the virus, and thus is prepared to respond, by first neutralizing the target agent before it can enter cells, and secondly by recognizing and destroying infected cells before that agent can multiply to vast numbers.

A COVID‑19 vaccine is a vaccine intended to provide acquired immunity against COVID-19. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, work to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus diseases SARS and MERS had established knowledge about the structure and function of coronaviruses, which accelerated development during early 2020 of varied technology platforms for a COVID‑19 vaccine.

By mid-December 2020, 57 vaccine candidates were in clinical research, including 40 in Phase I–II trials and 17 in Phase II–III trials. In Phase III trials, several COVID-19 vaccines demonstrated efficacy as high as 95% in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections. National regulatory authorities have approved six vaccines for public use: two RNA vaccines (the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and mRNA-1273 from Moderna), two conventional inactivated vaccines (BBIBP-CorV from Sinopharm and CoronaVac from Sinovac), and two viral vector vaccines (Gam-COVID-Vac from the Gamaleya Research Institute and AZD1222 from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca).

Many countries have implemented phased distribution plans that prioritize those at highest risk of complications, such as the elderly, and those at high risk of exposure and transmission, such as healthcare workers. As of 14 January 2021, 32.64 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered worldwide based on official reports from national health agencies. Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca predicted a manufacturing capacity of 5.3 billion doses in 2021, which could be used to vaccinate about 3 billion people (as the vaccines require two doses for a protective effect against COVID-19). By December, more than 10 billion vaccine doses had been preordered by countries, with about half of the doses purchased by high-income countries comprising only 14% of the world's population.

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