What Do I Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine?

With so much competing information coming out about the COVID-19 vaccine, it can be difficult to make sense of it all. Read on for the most up-to-date information for Minnesota residents.

What Is the Current Status of the COVID-19 Vaccine?

So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three COVID-19 vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine now has full FDA approval for those ages 16 and older (and emergency use authorization approval for kids ages 5–15), while vaccines created by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have emergency use authorization from the FDA. All the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

Everyone ages 5 and older are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for those ages 5 and older. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available for those ages 18 and older.

How Safe Are the COVID-19 Vaccines?

All the currently approved vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective following clinical trials. The vaccines do not contain the live virus and cannot give you COVID-19. Two shots at specific intervals are required for Pfizer and Moderna: Pfizer’s shots are 21 days apart, and Moderna’s are  28 days apart. A booster is recommended for each at least six months after the second shot. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has one initial dose, followed by a booster at least two months after the initial vaccination.

Typically, it takes about two weeks after the second shot for the vaccine to be effective, so it is still possible to become infected with the virus during this time period. However, it is still important to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing even after being vaccinated.

How Do the Vaccines Work?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both what is known as mRNA vaccines, a new type of immunization based on research that has been in development for nearly 30 years. The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines direct our cells to make a harmless piece of protein that is found on the surface of the virus. The body recognizes that the protein piece does not belong on the cell and begins to build antibodies, effectively teaching itself how to protect against future exposure to the virus and infection.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. That means a modified version of another virus—not the COVID-19 virus—is injected into your arm. That virus, which is harmless, creates a spike protein like what is found with the COVID-19 virus. Once your body recognizes the spike protein, your immune system produces antibodies that fight off not only the spike protein from the virus, but also other spike proteins like COVID-19.

What Are the Side Effects of the Vaccines?

For both vaccines, side effects have been reported to be mild for most people, and some people have none at all. The most common side effects that have been reported include:

  • Soreness and swelling at the injection site
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Fever

It’s important to note that these side effects are a normal sign that the vaccine is doing its job and your body is building protection. Symptoms typically appear within seven days of receiving the shot and go away within a few days.

However, if fever worsens or your side effects last longer than a few days, see a healthcare provider. The providers at the River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department are available seven days a week on a first-come, first-served basis.

Visit the Minnesota Covid Response website for the most current information about COVID-19 in Minnesota.

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