Coronavirus Insight: What is the Vaccine?

Coronavirus Insight: What is the Vaccine?

Viviana Rivera, Features Editor

What exactly is the COVID vaccine, and is it safe?  Sources are stating different statistics on how many Americans would actually take the virus. Some claim they would while others are more hesitant.  Those unwilling to receive the vaccine have undeniable worries. What’s in this vaccine? What are the side effects?  

Typically, vaccines consist of weakened or dead samples of the illness it’s protecting us from.  However, the COVID vaccine uses alternative methods.  The mRNA vaccine stimulates your cells so that they’ll create a protein, the “‘spike protein’” that encourages our body to “produce antibodies” (CDC).  The reason this “‘spike protein’” is important is because it’s the same protein that the COVID-19 virus has.  To further explain, the vaccine instructs our cells to produce the proteins the virus has in order for our body to prepare and produce antibodies.  Reassuringly, this version of the proteins are “‘harmless’”.  This vaccine is inserted in “the upper arm muscle” (CDC).  Two shots are necessary for the utmost protection.  The time between shots varies.  For the Pfizer-BioNTech, there should be 3 weeks (21 days) between shots and for the Moderna vaccine, a month or around 28 days (CDC).  The CDC explains that with this vaccine, there are no risks of obtaining the actual virus and they state it may take a week or two after the second shot for you to be protected. 

The main side effects are compared to flu symptoms.  The symptoms include swelling and redness on the arm that received the vaccine.  Other symptoms are fever, chills, tiredness, and headaches (CDC).  However, the CDC does also give advice to help with symptoms like applying a “clean, cool, wet washcloth” over the area that the shot was inserted, using/exercising your arm, drinking fluids, and wearing light clothing.  On the other hand, they do encourage you to contact your doctor if the arm pain and symptoms get worse after 24 hours and if your flu-like symptoms don’t go away or are worrying you after a few days. 

The FDA goes into more specific vaccines and their symptoms.  For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine causes “pain at the injection site”, muscle and joint pain, chills and a fever.  Alongside this, it shares the same flu symptoms as stated above.  As for the Moderna vaccine, the symptoms match the flu symptoms.  Another interesting fact about the Moderna vaccine is that it is a version of the mRNA vaccine and it does not contain eggs, preservatives, or latex.

There are some myths about the virus, some consist of people worrying it will turn women more masculine or male-like since the vaccine was made from male cells.  Or, that it will taint your DNA (Gavin).  Others worry that it will cause serious allergic reactions like anaphylaxis.  Kara Gavin, from the University of Michigan health branch reassures that the vaccine does not enter cells, especially not the nucleus.  Aside from that, some general advice to give is to discuss with your doctor beforehand your allergies and the severity of symptoms you could possibly have.  

Not to worry, the vaccine has been through “rigorous” safety analysis and “effectiveness standards” (CDC).  The vaccine should be safe, government sources, credible sources, explain the vaccine thoroughly.  Still, it is up to each individual whether or not they’ll take the vaccine.  It’s all personal preference.  Hopefully this little bit of insight helped with your decision.  Stay safe out there.  It’s the era of a raging pandemic, and this vaccine might just challenge the odds.