Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Clearing up confusion on potential COVID-19 vaccines, testing

A volunteer receives an injection during a COVID-19 vaccine trial.
A volunteer receives an injection at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg, on June 24, 2020, as part of Africa's first participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial developed at the University of Oxford in Britain in conjunction with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca says late-stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine were "highly effective'' in preventing disease. A vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford prevented 70 percent of people from developing the coronavirus in late-stage trials, the team reported Monday Nov. 23, 2020.
Siphiwe Sibeko | AP Photo file

After some promising results, Moderna is set to apply for FDA authorization of their vaccine today.

Pfizer and BioNTech submitted their application earlier this month, making Moderna the second coronavirus vaccine candidate to seek emergency use authorization.

A handful of other groups are in the process of planning or carrying out large-scale Phase 3 vaccine trials across the country.

This progress is welcome news after the country reached 13 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday.

However, we’re not in the clear just yet.

If and when a vaccine gets approved, there are several logistical hurdles that need to be cleared, like how to safely distribute the vaccine and which groups should be the first priority. 

In the meantime, public health officials are pleading with people to limit contact with people outside of their household.

MPR News senior reporter Catharine Richert spoke with two scientists about the latest guidance on testing, progress on vaccine candidates and our evolving understanding of COVID-19.


  • Dr. Stanley Perlman is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa and is on the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which advises the FDA on the approval of COVID-19 vaccines.

  • Kumi Smith is an assistant professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS