How do vaccines work?
Vaccines work by mimicking the infectious bacteria or viruses that cause disease. Traditionally vaccines are injections of dead bacterial or viral particles that trigger your body’s immune response. Your immune system sends soldier-like cells called antibodies to your infected body cells to fight off the viral particles. Some of these antibodies are non-specific and attack every cell within a given area. Some antibodies are specific to certain viruses and will only fight cells that are infected with its matching virus. If specific antibodies are activated, your body will remember how you fought off the light version of the disease. In the case your body actually encounters the live, more serious, version of the virus, it will be able to effectively and quickly defend itself.
Why the COVID-19 vaccine is different than most:
Instead of an injection of a dead version of COVID-19, this vaccine contains mRNA (Messenger RNA) or genetic instructions for making COVID-19’s external spike protein. The spike protein or the red triangle structure (as seen in the image below) on the outside of the virus is what COVID-19 uses to attach to and infect your cells. The mRNA vaccine teaches our cells how to make a spike protein that is completely harmless, and that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies to fight the spike proteins, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. Once the mRNA or instructions for the spike protein is injected into your body, your cells will use its own machinery to create numerous copies of the spike protein. Once enough of the spike protein has built up in your body, your immune system will recognize that build up as COVID-19’s presence. From there, it acts like any other vaccine. Your body will send antibodies to fight off the “virus” and that remember that process in case you get infected in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Why get vaccinated?
If you have a preexisting condition like obesity (BMI 30+), COPD, cardiac conditions, sickle cell disease, diabetes (I or II), asthma, hypertension, etc. you could be at risk for a severe infection of COVID-19. About 83% of COVID deaths were in individuals with pre-existing conditions. Additionally if you are older than 65 years, you have a high risk of severe infection. This vaccine may not prevent you from getting infected, but it will provide you with a safeguard against serious illness.
2. What will it cost me to get vaccinated?
The vaccine and the administration is completely free. If someone charges you money, its probably a scam.
3. Can you get the Coronavirus because of the vaccine?
No. mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and therefore one
cannot get the Coronavirus. mRNA is just a set of instructions given to the body to make the spike proteins.
4. Does the vaccine affect our DNA?
No. They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. mRNA never enters the
nucleus of our cells, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks
down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.
5. Which ages can receive the vaccine?
For the Pfizer vaccine, we will be giving immunizations to everyone 16 years and above. For the Moderna vaccine, we will be giving immunizations to everyone 18 years and above. The vaccine is not yet approved for lower ages and once that approval comes we will expand our age group.
6. If I have allergies, can I get the vaccine?
According to the CDC, people with a history of severe allergic reactions (non-vaccine related such as pets, foods, latex, etc.) may still get vaccinated.
If you have a known allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine (mRNA, lipids, potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and/or sucrose), you should not receive the vaccine.
If you have a severe allergic reaction after receiving your first dose, you should not get the second dose.
7. Can pregnant women get vaccinated?
Pregnant women may receive the vaccine. According to Web MD, there is little to no
risk for pregnant mothers and/or breast-feeding infants. However, we will not vaccinate pregnant women at our office. Please consult with your OB-GYN.
8. Will the vaccine prevent me from getting infected?
So far, what is known about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is that they prevent
people from getting severely symptomatic with the virus. Unlike other vaccines, it may not prevent someone from becoming infected with COVID-19. This has not been studied completely.
9. When can I get the vaccine?
Our clinic has been selected to receive the vaccine and we will give you an update as soon as we can begin immunizations.
10. What are the differences between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine?
While both are mRNA vaccines, there are several differences between the two:
The two vaccines have different age limits. You must be at least 18 years old to receive the Moderna vaccine and at least 16 years old to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
The waiting period between the two vaccines is different. You must wait 21 days between your first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and 28 days between doses for the Moderna vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine requires a much colder storage than the Moderna vaccine.
11. Which vaccine is better, Pfizer or Moderna?
Both vaccines have shown to be very effective at preventing COVID-19 infection. The Pfizer vaccine has shown to be 95% effective across all age, racial and ethnic groups. The Moderna vaccine has shown to be 94.1% effective across all racial and ethnic groups, but this number did appear to be a little lower among those 65 years of age or older.
12. How many doses do I receive?
Pfizer’s and Moderna's vaccines are both two doses. You must come into the office for the second immunization for the vaccine to be effective. For Pfizer, you must come in 14-21 days after your first dose. For Moderna, you must come in 21-28 days after your first dose.
13. Are the vaccines interchangeable? If I get the Pfizer dose first, can I get the Moderna dose second?
No. You must receive the related second dose for the vaccine to work correctly. You cannot interchange the two vaccines as they are not exactly the same.
14. Now that I've been vaccinated, can I stop wearing masks, stop maintaining social distancing, and stop washing my hands?
All current CDC guidelines (masks, social distancing, hand-washing, outdoor gatherings,
etc.) must be continued to be followed. Even with the vaccine, you could still become
infected and it will take months for the majority of the population to receive their
Herd immunity is a term used to describe when enough people have protection—either from previous infection or vaccination—that it is unlikely a virus or bacteria can spread and cause disease. The percentage of the public that needs to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is unknown; however, according to Anthony Fauci, "If 75 percent to 80 percent of Americans are vaccinated in broad-based campaigns likely to start in the second quarter of next year, then the U.S. should reach the herd immunity threshold months later. If vaccination levels are significantly lower, 40 percent to 50 percent, it could take a very long time to reach that level of protection."
15. What are the side effects of the vaccine?
The most common side effects include mild pain, swelling, and redness at the site of
injection. Other symptoms include chills, tiredness, and headaches. These side effects
usually start within a day or two of the vaccination and will go away in a few days.
16. Will I test positive for antigen (rapid) or PCR test after I get the vaccine?
No, you will not test positive with the above tests. However, you can test positive with the antibody test.
17. If I have had COVID-19 in the past, should I get the vaccine?
Yes. Although people who test positive for COVID-19 do produce antibodies, the antibody levels and how long they last are not known. In addition, the antibody response to the vaccine is dramatically higher than it is to natural infection. We are seeing reinfection among people who have already been infected with COVID-19, so the vaccine should provide additional protection against reinfection.
However, if you are currently sick and wish to get vaccinated, the vaccination should be avoided until you recover. There is no minimum interval between infection and vaccination. However, current evidence suggests reinfection is uncommon within 90 days after initial infection, so people with documented light infections may defer vaccination until the end of that period.
18. How long will it take for the vaccine to begin protecting me?
According to the CDC, it will take about one to two weeks following the second dose to be considered fully vaccinated.