After a tumultuous three year battle with the Coronavirus, we now have vaccines to help protect us from its devastating effects. Understandably though, many of us are left wondering how these life-saving serums work and what they really do for our bodies. To help make sense of things, here’s a helpful rundown on many frequently asked questions about COVID vaccines and their answers.
What COVID-19 vaccines are available?
There are four COVID-19 vaccines, which include primary series and boosters, recommended in the United States. They were issued an Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been distributed in select states already.
These four approved vaccines provide Americans with different options:
- Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna offer mRNA immunizations
- Novavax provides protein subunit vaccinations
- Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine is available as an effective viral vector alternative and can be given in some situations
What is an Emergency Use Authorization for vaccines?
An Emergency Use Authorization for vaccines is a means to allow the use of unapproved products to address serious and life-threatening diseases when there are no available solutions or alternatives. The current pandemic, for example, requires an urgent solution to help diagnose, treat, or prevent the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.
Manufacturers submit requests for EUAs and the FDA studies them. Those are only authorized for use if relevant data and documented results, based on clinical trials, meet the statutory criteria imposed by the agency.
Who is paying for COVID-19 vaccine?
Paying for COVID-19 vaccines will not be a problem because the government will be purchasing them with US taxpayer dollars and distributing them to Americans for free. During the pandemic, at least. Whether you are insured, uninsured, or on Medicare, you should be able to get vaccinated at no extra cost.
When did vaccinations start in New York?
The vaccinations started in New York on December 14 and the first doses were administered to frontline health care workers by Nao medical and many healthcare organizations..
Who gets the COVID-19 vaccine first?
Those who get the COVID-19 vaccine first will depend on each state’s plan, although the CDC makes recommendations on who gets vaccinated first, especially now that there is a limited supply. To learn more about which groups in your location are in line for vaccination, contact your local health department. In New York, health workers were included in the Phase 1a and 1b groups.
How will I know if I am eligible to get vaccinated?
You will know if you are eligible to get vaccinated in New York by checking the Am I Eligible? App. If you are, you may schedule an appointment at the local health department website to get yourself a slot. It is important to keep in mind that there are a lot of people waiting for their vaccination schedules so expect to wait a few weeks before getting a shot.
People belonging to the following industries, groups, or occupations are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination (beginning January 11, 2021):
- Individuals Age 65 and older
- First Responders and Support Staff
- P-12 Schools
- Licensed, registered, approved or legally exempt group Childcare Providers
- Public Transit
- Individuals living and working (employee or volunteer) in a homeless shelter with shared accommodations and interaction with other residents or workers.
- Public-facing grocery store workers
- In-person college instructors
Can you choose your vaccine?
You can’t choose your vaccine yet since there is a low supply of Pfizer and Moderna and the federal government will determine which state gets what. Also, storage and transportation requirements will play a huge role in which states have the right facilities to store them. Pfizer, for example, requires special freezers to keep it in ultra freezing temperatures.
Does the vaccine contain a live virus?
The vaccine does not contain a live virus. Both Pfizer and Moderna use a technology that uses mRNA strands to deliver instructions, not a piece or trace of the real virus, to the cells on how to create a spike protein. This will then trigger the immune system to create antibodies to fight off a future infection.
How do mRNA vaccines work?
mRNA vaccines work by using strands of genetic material, called mRNA, to bring “instructions” to human cells on how to make a piece or portion of a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This induces an immune response, helping protect the body from getting infected.
The synthetic mRNA has a special coating of lipids or fats that protect it from getting destroyed by the body’s defense system before reaching its target cells. Once a spike protein piece is created, the mRNA strand breaks down and gets disposed of using the enzymes in the cell. The protein, now an antigen, causes the production of antibodies to fight off future SARS-CoV-2 infection.
What are the ingredients of a COVID-19 vaccine?
The ingredients of a COVID-19 vaccine are fewer than traditional ones. It contains mRNA, lipids (which coats the mRNA to protect them from the body’s defense system), salts (to maintain pH level), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride (table salt), dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose (which helps keep the lipid molecules from clumping).
It also does not contain antibiotics, preservatives, blood components, proteins, egg, gluten, or microchips.
How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?
Safety is the top priority for any type of vaccine. Although the COVID vaccines were developed faster than usual, the mRNA technology used has been studied for several years. Based on clinical trial results and recent vaccinations, they are quite safe to administer.
There may be possible side effects and the CDC and FDA encourage vaccinated individuals to report any unusual or unexpected effects to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
Just recently, it was found that vaccinated women, 18 to 48 years of age, are at risk of developing Vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) or clots on Days 6 to 13 after getting vaccinated. Those at risk are those who have a family or personal history of lots or are on medications that increase blood clot risks, like hormonal pills.
The Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine has shown a 3% to 12% risk for clotting, which is low as compared to its effectiveness rate so it is still allowed for anti-COVID vaccinations. AstraZeneca, which is approved in the UK but not in the US, has also shown a similar increase in clotting risk.
How effective are these vaccines?
How effective these vaccines are based on the extensive clinical trials of each one on several participants coming from a diverse demographic (age, sex, ethnicity, race, underlying conditions). Pfizer has shown a 95% efficacy rate on its Phase 3 trials while Moderna reached a 94.1% on its final phase.
Will the FDA-authorized vaccines work against the new COVID-19 strain?
The FDA-authorized vaccines should work against the new COVID-19 strain. The major difference between the new strain and the old one is that the former has an increased risk of transmitting or spreading the virus faster to other people. However, the way it enters the body and the symptoms associated with it are still the same, according to findings.
Do I need two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
You need two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to acquire full protection against the Coronavirus. The first dose is an introductory shot, helping the cells create a spike protein and catch the attention of the immune system. The second dose, on the other hand, strengthens the immune response.
How long will it take to build immunity after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
It may take a few weeks to build immunity after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, according to health experts. So, after getting vaccinated, it is still important to practice health protocols, such as wearing masks, frequently washing your hands, and social distancing.
If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?
If you already had COVID-19 and recovered, you still need to get vaccinated. The virus is fairly new and how long natural immunity lasts is still unknown, although reinfection has been found to be rare 90 days from initial infection.
Can you still get COVID-19 if you are vaccinated?
You can still be infected with COVID after getting a vaccine because it may take several weeks for the body to build immunity against the virus.
Can you still transmit Covid-19 after getting vaccinated?
If you can still transmit COVID-19 after getting vaccinated is still undetermined. Most vaccines for viral illnesses are able to help reduce transmission. While Pfizer and Moderna were able to measure the effectiveness of their products in keeping people from getting sick, it is still uncertain if they can also keep people from spreading the virus.
How much will it cost to get vaccinated?
The cost to get vaccinated is zero. At least during the pandemic. The federal government is procuring vaccines using taxpayer dollars so it is free for everyone. However, private health care providers may charge for administering the shot.
After the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines won’t be free anymore. Pfizer costs around $20 while Moderna’s vaccine costs somewhere between $30 to $37 for each dose.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
The side effects of the vaccines Pfizer and Moderna are similar. Some may experience one or more of the following:
- Soreness in the upper arm (injection site)
- Fatigue or extreme tiredness
Some experience flu-like symptoms that may make it difficult to perform daily activities but those are temporary and should clear up in a few days.