COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. Most commonly, COVID-19 affects receptors and the cell linings of your sinuses, mouth, and nasal passages resulting in congestion, sore throat, cough, and headache. Some patients also experience gastrointestinal upset. A common, unique feature of COVID-19 is loss of taste and smell due to nerve-ending damage. Without a proper immune response, COVID-19 can move farther down the respiratory tract and destroy the cells that line the lungs – leading to shortness of breath and more severe infection potentially requiring hospitalization. A lot about COVID-19 is still unknown and being researched.
There are different types of vaccines for COVID-19. In general, all of these vaccines contain a component of the virus that cannot cause COVID-19 but rather results in an immune response to create memory antibodies. If you are then exposed to COVID-19 in the future, your body uses memory antibodies to recognize and fight the virus off much more easily without you getting sick.
mRNA vaccines: This type of vaccine is a new technology made of genetic material “instructions” from the COVID-19 virus. These instructions tell your cells to make a protein unique to the virus. Your immune system fends off this protein and remembers it in case the body is ever infected again.
Protein subunit vaccines: Instead of “genetic material” that causes your body to make the protein, these vaccines are the protein themselves that result in memory cell formation and immunity.
Vector vaccines: This vaccine contains a weakened version of a different live virus (such as adenovirus) that contains some genetic material from COVID-19 that causes your cells to make a protein unique to the virus. Your immune system fends off this protein and remembers it in case the body is ever infected again
Frequently Asked Questions
Can the vaccine give you COVID-19?
No. No vaccines in development right now contain live virus. The goal of the COVID-19 vaccine is to teach your body how to recognize the virus and develop antibodies to fight off any virus exposure in the future. This means the vaccine (similar to all other vaccines) is eliciting an immune response from your body. Experiencing a temporary low-grade fever, inflammation, body aches, and fatigue are all signs that the body is building immunity.
If I already had COVID-19, should I still get the vaccine?
Evidence suggests that if you were already diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19, you have likely developed specific antibodies in your blood which provide some level of natural immune defense. Research is still being done to determine how long that immune response lasts. The vaccine may still be recommended in hopes of producing a higher and more sustained level of immunity.
Which vaccine is best?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the available options at this time. They both have similar effectiveness, mechanisms of action, and safety profiles. Both vaccines are a two-dose series, 21 or 28 days apart respectively.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
The most common side effects include mild-moderate pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache. Fatigue and headache were reported more frequently after the second dose and were more common among patients under 55 years of age. Less common side effects included fever and chills. Severe side effects were reported in <2% of vaccine recipients, and no COVID-related deaths were reported. The side effects reported were studied on patients enrolled in the trial over a two month period, and they are continually being monitored.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine effective?
Pfizer’s published Phase III trial showed approximately 95% efficacy against COVID-19. The first dose pro-vided about 50% protection, and the second dose provided about 90% protection. A total of 43,548 patients in the study received vaccine.
Moderna’s interim analysis showed approximately 95% efficacy against COVID-19.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be a one-time vaccine or an annual vaccine?
Right now, the COVID-19 vaccine is an initial two-dose series. More studies on long-term immunity from the vaccine will determine how often it will be recommended.
When will the COVID-19 vaccine be available?
The vaccine will hopefully be available in early 2021 in community pharmacies. Those most at risk such as nursing home residents and health care workers will be prioritized first.
Normally vaccines take years to develop. How did they develop the COVID-19 vaccine so quickly, and should I be worried that they cut corners?
The COVID-19 vaccine development is different in two ways: first, resource allocation and, second, performing multiple steps at one time.
With COVID-19 being a national pandemic, personnel, products, and lab equipment were prioritized to COVID-19 vaccine development. In addition, vaccine manufacturers are being permitted to complete different phases (i.e. completing Phase 3 studies AND manufacturing the vaccine) at the same time. These steps have all helped vaccine development progress quickly.
I’m relatively healthy and it seems like COVID-19 is just like a regular cold. Why would I consider getting vaccinated?
If you are young and healthy, then you will probably only get a mild illness. However, a few considerations:
Even though you may not feel very sick, you still have the ability to pass the virus to others that could become severely ill from COVID.
The virus is still new and unpredictable. Even though you likely will have a mild illness – that’s not a guarantee. There are reports of young, healthy patients becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalization.
Both the virus and the vaccine are new – and the constantly changing information overload can be scary and confusing. Researching reputable sources, considering risks versus benefits, and spending time in prayer may be helpful in deciding if the vaccine is right for you at this time.
Can children get the vaccine?
The vaccine is currently approved (under emergency use authorization) in patients 16 years and older.
Norland Avenue Pharmacy is taking all necessary steps to obtain and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to our community as soon as possible. At this time, it is unknown when the vaccine will be delivered. We have started a waiting list of patients who would like to get the vaccine when it does come in. If you would like to be added to that list, please call the pharmacy at (717) 217-6790.
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