By Cindy Ma
Image by MaRS
The COVID vaccine is classified under a new type of vaccine called mRNAs, meaning they instruct cells to produce a harmless component found on the surface of the virus called the spike protein. Once the protein is produced, the cell will break down the reproduction instructions and dispose of them. The rest of the protein will then be placed on the surface of the cell. When our immune systems detect something they don’t recognize, they will begin to make antibodies to produce an immune response against it. This helps our bodies learn to protect itself from future infections with the same code and reduce its harmful effects. Vaccines help us gain protection against the serious consequences of a virus.
mRNA vaccines have been researched for decades but were not fully developed until recently due to COVID-19. mRNA vaccines provide a faster and up-to-standard method of creating vaccines. With this breakthrough, it could mean that in the future one vaccine shot could provide immunity against multiple diseases.
Many people have been wary about how fast the COVID vaccine was developed, but it is because the mechanism has been studied for much longer, allowing for the quick development. The CDC assures that the COVID vaccine is both safe and effective. The shots will reduce the risk of people spreading the virus as more people get it. After getting your vaccine there may be some side effects such as: pain, swelling, fatigue, headaches, and fever. These side effects all mean that your immune system is working hard to build a protection system for the future, much like it does when your body is fighting a cold or the flu. Some things you can do to reduce the side effects are to drink lots of water, exercise your arm afterwards, and ice the area where you got your vaccine.
If you receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you will need two shots. The first shot will provide you with some protection and the second shot will reinforce that immune response. With Pfizer, you should receive your second dose around 3 weeks after your first dose and with Moderna, you should receive your second dose around 4 weeks after your first shot. This time frame allows for the first dose to fully build up a response before reinforcing it. Most people will say that the side effects after the second dose are stronger. These include chills, pain, headaches and fever. However, they are normal just as after your first dose. Side effects also tend to be more pronounced in younger people because of how active their immune system is.
When scheduling your vaccines, it is important to plan that you will be able to get your second dose within the timeframe. The location of your first dose should help with scheduling the second, whether you schedule online or in person. When going to your second appointment, you should bring your vaccine card to provide information on which vaccine you first received and when. It will also be used to fill out the information of your second dose. Two weeks after your second dose, you are considered fully vaccinated!
All in all, getting your COVID vaccine is an important part of protecting yourself and others from COVID-19, so that we can all hopefully return to some semblance of normalcy.