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Simplifying the COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Need to Know

As the year 2021 kicks off, the COVID-19 pandemic continues into the new year with many questions about the release and disbursement process of the vaccines. Around the country, more than 100 million Americans are uncertain and skeptical about the vaccines due to the safety and side effects of the vaccines. There are currently two FDA unapproved vaccines, and they are to be used under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Healthcare professionals and senior living residents are two groups that are authorized to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Already, many healthcare workers across the country have begun the vaccination process. The general public can get vaccinated once these vaccines are approved for large scale administration and there is a vaccine more broadly available in the United States.

How mRNA Vaccines Work

The two vaccines that are currently being used are the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. Both of these are classified as mRNA vaccines. Unlike other vaccines, this type does not inject the virus into an individual. Instead, mRNA vaccines create a protein that triggers an immune response to produce antibodies. Obtaining antibodies for COVID-19 protects individuals from getting infected when they come in contact with the virus.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

Woman receiving vaccination This is an mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company. It is recommended to be used by those over the age of sixteen years old. Approximately 20,000 people have received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. This vaccine has proven prevention from COVID-19 to those that complete the vaccination process. This vaccine is administered as a shot in the muscle of the upper arm in two doses, three weeks apart. The side effects of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine include:

  • Injection site pain
  • Injection site swelling
  • Injection site redness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

This is an mRNA vaccine developed by Moderna, a biotechnology company in Cambridge, Massessussets. It is recommended to be used by those over the age of eighteen years old. Approximately 15,400 people have received at least one dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. This vaccine has proven prevention from COVID-19 to those that complete the vaccination process. This vaccine is administered as a shot in the upper arm in two doses, one month apart. Side effects associated with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine include::

  • COVID-19 VaccineInjection site pain
  • Injection site tenderness
  • Injection site swelling
  • Injection site redness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

Similarities in These Vaccines

During clinical trials, people more often experienced side effects after the second dose. Still, side effects can show up after either or both doses.

  • How long these vaccines protect against COVID-19 is currently unknown.
  • Both vaccines may cause a severe allergic reaction in some instances with symptoms including; difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and/or throat, a fast heartbeat, a bad rash, dizziness, and weakness.
  • There are similar side effects caused by both vaccines.

The side effects typically arise within a day or two of receiving the vaccine and typically go away within a few days.

Differences in These Vaccines

Challenges of the Vaccines

pexels-artem-podrez-5878501While these vaccines are above 94% effective, they will not end the COVID-19 pandemic unless vaccine adoption rates are high. This will be a challenge because the United States has had low adoption rates in other cases. For example, only 49.2% of Americans got the flu shot between 2018 and 2019, even though the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness, and availability have been proven for decades. Recent research shows that 63% of respondents are cautious about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Another 18% say they are unlikely to get vaccinated. Another factor that decreases the likelihood of high vaccine adoption rates is the uncertainty shown by healthcare workers. Although many healthcare workers are required to get vaccinated, 34% of nurses would not voluntarily be vaccinated. In comparison, only 15% of nurses are “very confident that a COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective”. 

A method for working around this challenge is for healthcare workers to understand the necessity of being vaccinated, even if they have doubts about the vaccines. An example of this is my mom, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, MN. Regarding the vaccine, she said, “Although I am a bit nervous about receiving a brand new vaccine, I definitely believe this is the only way that we, as a country, will get out of this pandemic.”

Pros of Getting Vaccinated

Since many Americans doubt the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, it must be communicated that all vaccines go through rigorous clinical trials to be approved for large-scale use. These vaccines will prevent individuals from becoming seriously ill and lower the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. By receiving a vaccine, people can also protect their loved ones at a higher risk of mortality if they develop COVID-19. The more people that get vaccinated will lead to a higher likelihood of stopping the pandemic. While health and safety are the main benefits, there is also an economic benefit to being vaccinated. 

High vaccine adoption rates will increase safety to participate in social activities, which will enable strong economic growth and lead back to normalcy.

Resources

For additional information about current and future COVID-19 vaccines, visit the following websites:

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