What You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccines

All American adults are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. If you are considering getting vaccinated, you likely have some questions. For example, you might be wondering how the vaccines work and what kind of side effects you can anticipate. This guide provides the essential facts you should know about COVID vaccines before getting one.

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

A vaccine helps your body build immunity to a particular virus. It introduces the body to a less dangerous version of the virus or a synthetic formulation that mimics the virus. The body’s immune system then “learns” that virus and how to best fight it – and remembers this for the future.

In the case of the novel coronavirus, each viral particle has tiny protein spikes. The virus uses these spikes to latch onto the body’s cells, infecting the affected person and making them sick. The COVID-19 vaccines are created to help your body recognize these spike-protein viral particles and fight them.

It’s not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These vaccines contain biological substances or proteins that spur the immune response necessary to prevent infection from the virus. However, they don’t contain the virus itself.

Benefits of Getting a COVID Vaccine

A COVID-19 vaccine has many benefits. It can prevent you from getting sick with COVID-19. In the unlikely event that you still get infected, you should experience lighter symptoms. This is in comparison to symptoms you would have without the vaccine. The vaccine can prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

Getting vaccinated also helps to protect the people around you. So far, research suggests that vaccinated persons are less likely to spread the virus. This reduces human-to-human transmission, giving the virus fewer opportunities to spread and mutate (which is how new variants can occur).

Types of COVID Vaccines Available in the United States

The U.S. FDA has already approved multiple COVID vaccinations for use.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA on December 11, 2020. This is an mRNA vaccine administered as a shot in the upper arm muscle.

Here are the fast facts:

  • Number of shots needed: 2 shots are required, 21 days apart.
  • Age: Recommended for individuals 16 and older.
  • Efficacy rate: Clinical trials shows the vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 illness once fully vaccinated (two shots).
Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA on December 18, 2020. It’s also an mRNA vaccine administered via a shot to the upper arm muscle.

Here are the fast facts:

  • Number of shots needed: 2 shots are required, 28 days apart.
  • Age range: Recommended for individuals 18 and older.
  • Efficacy rate: Clinical trials shows the vaccine is 94.1 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 illness once fully vaccinated (two shots).
Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine received emergency use authorization from the FDA on February 27, 2021. It’s a viral vector vaccine administered via a shot to the upper arm muscle.

Here are the fast facts:

  • Number of shots needed: 1 shot is required
  • Age range: Recommended for individuals 18 and older.
  • Efficacy rate: Clinical trials show the vaccine is 66.3 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 illness two weeks after being vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, April 13, 2021, the CDC and FDA recommended pausing the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. This occurred after a small number of adverse events were reported. You can find the latest updates on this issue here.

How to Get a COVID Vaccine

The CDC recommends adults get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Large-scale vaccination is vital to helping to end the pandemic. For more information, visit the CDC website. In addition, Maryland residents can find more information here.

The vaccines described above have been determined to be predominantly safe and widely effective. Adverse side effects like blood clots are extremely rare. More common side effects can be found here.

The information above is current as of April 2021. Check the CDC website for the latest up-to-date information on COVID-19 vaccination.

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