The COVID-19 Vaccine — Know the Facts!
After almost a year of enduring the pandemic, the first phase of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are being administered. For many, this provides hope and relief, while for others, it is anxiety-provoking. We hope that this piece will answer your questions about the vaccines currently being offered (as of 1/13/2021) and put your mind at ease as you make personal vaccination decisions.
What is an mRNA vaccine?
The Pfizer mRNA or messenger RNA vaccine was the first to be approved, followed by the Moderna vaccine, which is also an mRNA vaccine. To trigger your immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactive version of the germ we are being immunized against into our bodies. mRNA vaccines don’t do this. mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine, which give instructions to our cells to make a protein that triggers the immune response in our body. This is a harmless protein and is called a “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be given in your upper arm, and once it is inside the muscle cells, the cells will produce the protein piece. Once made, the cell breaks down the “instructions” and gets rid of them.
Next, the cell will display the protein piece on its surface. Our immune system recognizes that it doesn’t belong there and begins to build an immune response. That immune response will produce antibodies, and those antibodies are what will protect us from contracting the virus.
Researchers have been working on mRNA vaccines for decades. With future mRNA vaccine technology, you may only need one shot to be protected against multiple diseases. mRNA is also being studied to fight some cancers.
The CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s goal is to approve vaccines that are both safe and effective. In an effort to quickly detect and track safety issues as a result of the vaccine, the CDC has developed a new tool, v-safe. V-safe is a smartphone-based tool through which you can alert the CDC if you have any side effects. You may receive a call from the CDC based on your responses.
Once you receive the vaccine, you will be given a vaccination record card, which includes the CDC website where you can register for v-safe. To register for v-safe, you will need a smartphone and the information on your vaccine record card.
Who is eligible for the first phase of vaccinations?
Because of the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is providing recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. Each state is responsible for creating their own rollout plans to accommodate the specific needs of the state. We have seen that most states are administering the first phase of vaccines to healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. Contact your local health department to learn more about the vaccine roll out schedule and when you are eligible.
How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will I need?
For the current mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, you will need two doses. Your second shot will be three weeks after your first.
What if I develop side effects from the vaccine?
You may develop some common side effects from the vaccine—this is normal and can be a sign that your body is building immunity against COVID-19. You may have some pain and/or swelling at the injection site and you may develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, or headache. All of these symptoms should go away within a few days. If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.
How much will the vaccine cost?
Initially, the U.S. Government will be supplying the vaccines. Your insurance will pick up the cost for the administration and maybe an office visit. Because the COVID-19 vaccine falls under preventative care, you will not be responsible for any of the charges.
Should I get a vaccine?
Many are concerned about receiving a new vaccine and the possible side-effects it could produce. It’s true that the vaccines were developed rapidly, but despite this fact, routine processes and procedures are in place to ensure that safety of the vaccine. Safety is everyone’s top priority.
Getting the vaccine may help protect you from becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19. It may also help protect those with increased risks around you. Widespread vaccination is vital to ending the pandemic. Wearing masks and social distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed, but those measures are not enough. The vaccine will help your immune system to be prepared should you be exposed. The more of us that receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the better off we will be.