It feels like an existential question – to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. But it shouldn’t be.
As a culture, we are far removed from the days of high infant mortality and the uncertainty and despair caused when waves of disease hit communities. Vaccines provide communities much-needed defenses not just from the disease itself but also from overburdening our health care system and the stress on families, and communities care for those who never completely recover.
So, you are worried about the COVID vaccine, here are some things to think about.
FDA Approval was fast-tracked, no corners were cut. The clinical trials were rigorous, and no steps were skipped.
The vaccine is not the virus!
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are unlike any vaccines used in the past. Most vaccines use an attenuated virus – like our yearly flu vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is a single sequence of mRNA – specifically the mRNA that encodes the spike protein, which dots the outer layer of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and allows the virus to enter and infect cells.
Think of mRNA is the recipe used by the cell to build proteins. The vaccines deliver mRNA that is taken up by the cells, and the cell’s protein-making machinery produces spike proteins that are then released back into the extracellular space where they meet up with the body’s immune system.
Just like getting the flu vaccine, you may feel like you are getting sick as your body’s immune system ramps up to fight. With the mRNA vaccine, that fight is short-lived as the mRNA has a short half-life—one of the reasons the double dose is needed. Dose one primes the body; dose two increases the body’s immune response generating immunity.
To date, the primary reactions to the vaccine have been the usual subjects – injection site discomfort followed by fatigue, muscle pain, chills, and headache. During the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 study, less than 0.5% report serious adverse effects – none of which were long-lasting. Bell’s palsy was reported in four cases, and a small number have had severe allergic reactions.
The CDC has expanded its safety monitoring system, including a smartphone app called V-Safe for after vaccination health checks, which provides a reminder for the timing of the second dose and telephone follow ups as needed for those reporting “medical significant symptoms.”
It has never been more important to get vaccinated!
And not just for COVID-19, to decrease the pressure on local hospitals, but it is also essential to get your Flu vaccine. The CDC estimates there were up to 740,000 people hospitalized in the last flu season – October 1, 2019 – April 4, 2020, and up to 62,000 deaths – think of how many hospital beds that means. With the strain COVID-19 has placed on the health care system, it is crucial to help out as much as we can. Those at risk should also get their Shingles and Pneumonia Vaccines. Anything we can do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community will help keep as many people out of the hospitals as possible as this surge in COVID-19 cases continues. If you don’t know which vaccines you should have, check the CDS’s Immunization Schedule. Have questions about if vaccinations are safe for you or a family member, ask your doctor.