January 6, 2021
After months of the challenges and heartache so many people have faced during the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines are bringing hope for a return to normalcy. While this is great news and a huge milestone, it’s important to remember the fight is not over. At the beginning of 2021, 25 percent of those tested at Lancaster General Health tested positive for COVID-19 and high numbers of patients of all ages continue to be admitted to the hospital.
We are still in the middle of a pandemic and even people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine must remain diligent in practicing the three key measures that prevent the spread of the virus: mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing. Here’s why.
An Introduction to COVID-19 Vaccines
More than 70,000 people took part in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, the first being distributed. The vaccines were found to be safe and incredibly effective (about 95%) in protecting immunized individuals from getting COVID-19. To put this in context, the average flu vaccine effectiveness ranges from 40-60 percent, according to the CDC.
Both vaccines require two shots—Moderna 28 days apart; Pfizer 21 days apart. The first shot primes the immune system, helping it recognize the virus, and the second shot strengthens the immune response.
Ongoing monitoring will help determine if people who have been vaccinated, while protected themselves, can still pass COVID-19 to others. This will take some time. Until then everyone—including those who received a vaccine—need to continue following the safety protocols known to stop the spread of the coronavirus:
- Wear a mask consistently and correctly when in public and any time you are indoors with people who aren’t from your household.
- Maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
The Vaccine Technology Is Not New
While it may seem like the COVID-19 vaccines appeared quickly, the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology behind the vaccines has been years in the making, originating at Penn Medicine 15 years ago.
Unlike the live viruses traditionally used in vaccines, these mRNA vaccines provide our own cells with instructions to create the spike protein from the COVID-19 virus. This triggers an immune response inside our bodies. The immune response results in the creation of antibodies that help to protect us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
Vaccine Side Effects
Millions of people have already received COVID-19 vaccines. The majority of reactions have been similar to that of any other vaccine—a little arm pain and slight fatigue. Less than 5% of people may get fever, a swelling at injection site, or a headache. This is most common after the second shot.
Because a live virus is not used in the vaccines, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine. For those who do experience fever, this indicates the vaccine is preparing your immune system in case you are exposed to the virus in the future. In other words, it’s doing what it is supposed to do.
If you have had an allergic reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease in the past, talk to your health-care provider if it is safe for you to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
These are exciting days in the pandemic journey. However, as we celebrate, remember it is still crucial to continue to practice the important safety measures we’ve been following for months: Wear a mask. Watch your distance. Wash your hands.
Up-to-Date Vaccine Information
For the latest updates on the COVID-19 vaccine, please check LGHealth.org/vaccine frequently.