Everything You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccines

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way we were accustomed to living, and since March of last year, we have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of human loss worldwide. 

This has left many with feelings of hopelessness, but with the approvals of the PfizerNTech, and Moderna in early December, and recently the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, people have been given a new sense of hope that they haven’t experienced in a long time.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made from using messenger mRNA, which delivers a bit of genetic information to its surrounding cells. The proteins that are made with the mRNA instructions activate the immune system, thereby teaching it to see the surface protein as foreign, subsequently developing antibodies, and other immunity factors to help against fighting the virus.   

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, on the other hand, uses a different approach in guiding human cells to make the SARS-2 surface protein, which then activates an immune response. Also referred to as the viral vector vaccine. Like the previous two vaccines, it has undergone rigorous testing for safety before being authorized or approved for widespread distribution. Vaccines of this type have been well studied and this viral vector vaccine was used in response to the Ebola outbreak. The difference here is that they use a modified version of a different virus as a “vector,” to deliver instructions in the form of genetic material to the cell.

  1. 1. PfizerNTech

    The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use in people aged 16 or older, and requires two doses, 21 days apart, with an effective rate of 95% after both doses have been administered. According to the CDC, anyone who has had an allergic reaction, whether before or after the first dose of the vaccine, no matter how severe, should not get a COVID-19 vaccine containing mRNA. Some of the common side effects that could occur include: pain, redness, and swelling in the arm after receiving the shot, and tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea could occur throughout the rest of the body. These side effects typically start within the first day or two of getting the vaccine, but should subside within a couple of days afterwards. 

  2. 2. Moderna

    The Moderna vaccine has been authorized for use in people aged 18 or older, and has now started testing its vaccine in 12-17 year olds. It requires two doses, 28 days apart, with an effective rate of 94.1% after both doses have been administered. Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, those who have had an allergic reaction before or after receiving the first dose of the shot should not get a COVID-19 vaccine containing mRNA. The same side effects from the Pfizer vaccine also applies to the Moderna vaccine. 

  3. 3. Johnson & Johnson 

    Developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, this newest vaccine has been authorized for use in people aged 18 or older. Unlike the previous two vaccines, it only requires one dose for it to be considered fully effective. It is shown to be 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19, and 85% protective against severe disease. This company is also testing a two-dose regime, with the two shots given eight weeks apart. In correlation to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, those who have a history of severe allergic reactions should not be given this vaccine, and the same side effects also apply. 

Some people may be concerned that the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is lower compared to that of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, but experts advise the public not to worry. According to Daniel Varga, M.D., Chief Physician Executive at Hackensack Meridian Health, says you should be open to receiving any vaccine that’s available to you, as all three of the vaccines that received emergency use authorization are very effective against COVID-19.  Photo by Edwin Hooper from Unsplash

With more and more vaccines becoming made widely available in the upcoming months throughout the U.S., the faster people will be able to get vaccinated and we will be able to reach heard immunity. All in hopes that we will soon be able to resume life as we once knew it to be, or at least continue to regain some sense of normalcy.