WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES
Vaccines (shots) will be one of the most important tools to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to fight the virus. Covid-19 vaccines may prevent serious or deadly Covid-19 infections.
There are multiple Covid-19 vaccines being developed which work in slightly different ways.
- mRNA vaccines – mRNA refers to genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 which is used in the vaccine. This genetic material gives the body instructions to make a specific piece of protein that is normally found in the virus and in response, the immune system then makes antibodies that can recognize and attack the virus in the future. Examples: Moderna and Pfizer
- Vector vaccines – contains a weakened version of a different virus, called adenovirus which does not make you sick, but acts as a “Vector”, or a way to deliver instructions to all cells in your body to make the protein normally found on the virus that causes COVID-19. Your immune system makes antibodies that recognize and attack the virus in the future.
Examples: AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson and Sputnik V.
Some countries in the European Union have temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a precautionary measure based on reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in persons who had received the vaccine. At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.(WHO, March 17, 2021).
In April 8, 2021, DOH upon the recommendation of FDA temporarily suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines for individuals below 60 years old, following recent reports of rare cases of blood clots detected in some individuals inoculated with the vaccine. “Despite this development, the National Task Force (NTF) and the DOH reiterated that vaccination is safe and free, and urged senior citizens and persons with comorbidities to receive the available vaccines from their LGUS to acquire the added protection it provides.” (DOH Press Release 8 April 2021).
In mid-April 2021, use of Johnson and Johnson vaccine in the United States was temporarily stopped following reports of a very small number of people getting blood clots after getting the vaccine.
- Inactivated vaccine – works by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response. It is a more traditional method of vaccine that is successfully used in many well known vaccines like rabies.
Examples: Sinovac, Sinopharm
- Protein-based subunit vaccine – unlike the other vaccines that “work by tricking the body’s cells to manufacture the parts of the virus that then trigger the immune system,” it “is made up with proteins from the virus already attached to a carrier and these trigger the immune system directly”. (Prof Paul Hunter, Univ of the East Anglia). These proteins have been developed using Novavax’s recombinant nanoparticle technology the company’s proprietary saponin-based Matrix-M adjuvant. The purified protein is encoded by the
genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein and is produced in insect cells. It is non-replicating.
Example: Novavax – NVX-CoV2373
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Does the Covid-19 vaccine cause side effects?
It can. Side effects are common, especially after the second dose of the vaccines that come in 2 doses. They include: pain on the injection site, fever, feeling very tired, headache which should not last longer a day or 2, signaling that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. More serious side effects include severe allergic reactions and blood clots which are rare.
Can I get Covid-19 from the vaccine?
No, you cannot get Covid-19 from the vaccine. The vector vaccine does contain virus, but it is a different virus created in the lab in a weakened form so it will not make a healthy person sick. mRNA vaccines do not contain virus at all.
Why should I get the Covid-19 vaccine?
Getting vaccinated lowers your chances of getting sick. If you do get Covid-19, the vaccine will probably keep you from getting severely ill. Since Covid-19 spreads very easily, in addition to protecting you, getting the vaccine will also protect other people, including those who are at higher risk of getting very sick or dying.
How do I know the vaccine is safe?
Covid-19 vaccines have been developed very quickly and clinical trials have happened much more quickly than usual because experts know that an effective vaccine will be the best ways to control the pandemic. Yes, vaccines are safe since they had to go through the same process as other vaccines to test them for safety. As more people get vaccines, researchers will continue to study how they work. They will learn more about how long a person is protected after getting a vaccine, and how well vaccination is working to slow the spread of Covid-19. A Neutralizing Antibody (NAB) blood test will help in determining the level of antibodies several weeks to months after completion of the vaccination.
How can I prepare for my vaccine?
Once you have an appointment to get the vaccine, make sure to get there on time. Be sure you have anything you were told to bring, like your ID or any other information. Doctors recommend not taking medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen just before you get the vaccine because they don’t know if these medicines could make the vaccine work less well. You can take pain medicine after your vaccine if you need to.
Can children get the Covid-19 vaccine?
One of the available vaccines in the United States can be given to people 16 years of age or older. The others can be given to people 18 or older. Eventually, younger children will be able to get a vaccine as well, once experts have studied this more to make sure it is safe.
What if I am pregnant?
Expert are also still studying the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy. However, pregnant people might be more likely to get seriously ill if they get Covid-19. For this reason, experts recommend that pregnant people get the Covid-19 vaccine. Right now, however, there is a general tendency not to give it during the first trimester. Your doctor can help you decide whether or not you should get the vaccine.
If I get the vaccine, can I stop social distancing and wearing a mask?
Not yet. Even though vaccines work very well to prevent Covid-19, it is still possible to get the infection. It will also take some time to learn exactly how long immunity lasts after a person is vaccinated.
When will the pandemic end?
The pandemic will be controlled when we have “herd immunity”. This is when enough people are immune to a disease that it can no longer spread easily. When vaccines are widely available, this is the best way to make people immune. The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner we will be able to reopen businesses and schools and get back to normal activities.
What if I have other questions?
It is normal to have a lot of questions or to be nervous about the idea of getting a new vaccine. Your doctor or nurse can help answer your questions or direct you to sources you can trust.
Be careful with information you find on the internet or social media. In some cases, it can be hard to tell what is true and what is false. This is especially dangerous if people share health information that is not based on science or evidence.
You can find more information about Covid-19 vaccines through the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.