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 two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use. One was created by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech, and the other by Moderna. Both vaccines work in similar ways and have similar rates of effectiveness, 95% and 94.1% after two doses. (For comparison, the average flu shot is less than 50% effective.) This means both COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from becoming ill with COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed in phases, with those at the highest risk prioritized over the general public. The demand for the vaccine is high, however, so it will take months before everyone is completely vaccinated.

According to the Minnesota COVID-19 Response website, you are currently eligible for a vaccine in Minnesota if you are a:

  • Child care staff member at a licensed and certified child care center or program
  • Healthcare worker
  • Minnesotan who is age 65 or older
  • Resident or staff member of a long-term care facility
  • Staff member or school contracted staff member at a pre-kindergarten through Adult Basic and Community Education school

Currently, we are at the tail end of phase 1a and just starting to transition into phase 1b.

How Safe Are the COVID-19 Vaccines?

Both 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 both: Pfizer, 21 days apart; Moderna, 28 days apart.

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. This is because scientists do not yet know if vaccinated people can still spread the virus to others, even without becoming sick themselves.

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.

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 Express Clinic at the Hilltop Hy-Vee in Mankato are available seven days a week on a first-come, first-served basis.

In the coming weeks, more information will become available about when and where people in each group will receive their vaccinations. Visit the Minnesota Covid Response website for the most current information.

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