In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, help is on the way in the form of vaccination. Multiple pharmaceutical companies, in conjunction with the federal government, have been working nonstop to research and develop vaccines so everyone can eventually receive one. At the moment, the details of eligibility and of the vaccines themselves are somewhat confusing, so we’ve gathered some information to help you understand it better.
Different Vaccine Brands
Put simply, vaccines help our bodies fight disease by delivering controlled pieces of existing diseases to our cells, so our bodies can begin to recognize the disease and learn to fight it. As of the writing of this article, three brands of COVID-19 vaccines have been approved by the FDA and are being administered to many people: the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson Janssen’s vaccine. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are similar in that they both use mRNA technology (a modern form of biological vaccine delivery) to help your body learn to fight the COVID-19 virus.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines require two doses to be administered, and the main difference between them for patients is how long they must wait between doses (28 days for Moderna vaccine and 21 days for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine). The Moderna vaccine has a 94.1 percent effectiveness rate and is approved for people 18 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has a 95 percent effectiveness rate and is approved for people 16 years of age and older. However, patients cannot at this time choose which vaccine they will receive – they will receive whichever brand of vaccine that is currently available at the vaccination site when the vaccine is administered.
The FDA approved the Johnson & Johnson Janssen’s vaccine on February 27 for use on people aged 18 and older. This is the first vaccine to only require one dose. It also does not use mRNA technology, instead using adenovirus type 26 (Ad26) genetic material to train the body to fight COVID-19. This vaccine has a 66 percent efficacy rate as opposed to the 94 and 95 percent efficacy rates of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, but it has still been approved and will be used soon.
A few other brands of vaccine are currently in research and testing phases but have not yet been approved by the FDA. Once they are completed and approved, the vaccine will be able to be distributed more quickly.
Vaccine Administration & Potential Side Effects
The COVID-19 vaccine is administered in the same way as a flu vaccine – injected into the muscle of the upper arm via a sterilized needle. Vaccine recipients can also expect to notice standard aftereffects in their arms as a result of the vaccine, such as arm soreness, swelling and redness. Many recipients have also experienced bodily side effects that resemble flu-like symptoms, including chills, tiredness and headache. These mostly mild side effects may last one or two days and are most common or more intense after the second dose. These side effects are to be expected and result from the vaccine beginning to work in your body. A small percentage of people experience more severe symptoms that prevent them from performing daily activities for a short time. Research for developing the vaccines and minimizing side effects is ongoing.
If you receive the COVID-19 vaccine and experience a severe allergic reaction, contact your doctor immediately, and if you commonly have allergic reactions to vaccination in general, consult with your physician before committing to receive the vaccine.
Currently, doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are being produced as quickly as possible, but there’s still a scarcity. This means that Virginia is rolling out vaccinations in stages, or tiers, with more vulnerable populations and people on the front lines of the healthcare industry receiving it first. As of the writing of this post, Virginia is in stages 1a and 1b, which includes eligibility for:
- Healthcare personnel
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- Frontime essential workers
- People aged 65+
- People aged 16-64 with underlying medical conditions
- People living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps
Phase 1c is yet to come, which will include other essential workers. The federal government hopes to have enough doses in the future to vaccinate the majority of the US population by summer or fall 2021, though this estimate is subject to change. You can find out how quickly you’re likely to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on the CVS Pharmacy website, Walmart website and Kroger website. You can also pre-register to receive the vaccine on the Virginia Department of Health website.
Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe?
Many people unfamiliar with the process of researching and developing vaccines are asking questions like:
- Is the COVID-19 vaccine really safe?
- How was the vaccine produced so quickly?
- Were shortcuts taken in its development?
These are all legitimate questions.
COVID-19 is not the first strain of coronavirus to appear or be studied in the world. It is preceded by several earlier strains from different parts of the globe. Because disease and pharmaceutical research organizations were already studying these strains of coronavirus, a great deal of scientific information was available when they began to study the COVID-19 strain. Also, the United States government and other governments around the world provided a surge of emergency funding for research and development, and committed to purchasing as many doses of vaccine as possible upon approval. Because of these factors, the process was able to be expedited without shortcuts.
Also, the mRNA technology for delivering the vaccine into the body is a relatively new medical technology to the mass vaccination market. However, it has been researched and tested for decades prior to now with other diseases like the flu and Zika, and is currently seeing a great deal of success. It is also being tested for use with other diseases in the future, like various cancers. Contrary to some misinformation that has been spreading, the vaccine also does not contain any common allergens and will not affect people’s ability to reproduce.
Where Can You Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine?
As mentioned earlier, companies like CVS Pharmacy, Kroger and Walmart are administering vaccines, as are several local doctor’s offices. At Community Access Network, we ARE able to administer the vaccine, but ONLY to established patients. The COVID-19 vaccine is free to receive. In order to receive the vaccine, we recommend signing up on the Department of Health’s website.