COVID-19 Vaccine: Symptoms, Risks, and Benefits

You might be a bit confused about the vaccines designed to fight the spread of COVID-19. Some people are wondering if they should trust it or if it’s wiser to be skeptical.

Attempting to make sense of the differences between all the vaccine options and even COVID-19 itself can be overwhelming. The pandemic isn’t over, and the long-term changes to things such as life insurance and COVID-19 itself are still developing. You don’t want to end up getting lost in the shuffle because protecting yourself and your loved ones requires staying informed.

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Whether you have or haven’t gotten sick or are worried about getting sick, breaking down everything COVID-19 related will help you decide what the right choices are for you.

Safety Monitoring and Protocols for the COVID-19 Vaccines

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) are the new celebrities of 2021, and everyone is either on the bandwagon or not. But despite vaccines’ effectiveness and safety, some are still hesitant to get vaccinated.

The general purpose of vaccines is to help familiarize the body with a potential threat, but not many of us know or understand how they work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have multiple committees and programs to test the quality of vaccines and ensure their safe and proper use to the public. These programs include:

Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)

VAERS monitors vaccine effects and side effects once they have been administered. VAERS takes reports from both those in the medical and public health field and the public. They are accessible to anyone who wants to give vaccine feedback and are like the Yelp of vaccine resources. It is managed by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project (CISA)

CISA helps support and provide answers to healthcare providers with any questions surrounding a vaccine’s safety. Their job is to conduct clinical research studies and better understand the vaccine for individual use. By doing individual case studies, they help predict what categories of people are more likely to have adverse effects to specific vaccines. CISA is supported by the CDC and various national medical research centers.

Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD)

VSD is like a safety net. VSD does real-time safety monitoring for vaccines as they get administered to the public by examining medical research and VAERS reports. They directly give information to the public and have helped ensure vaccine safety since 1990.

VSD is a collaboration between the CDC and nine other integrated healthcare organizations.

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

ACIP acts as advisors to the CDC for public protection. ACIP is composed of immunization specialists who review data from clinical trials and private studies as well as medical and public health representatives and representatives from liaison organizations.

Because of these programs, specialists, and other organizations, we can now prevent many diseases and have a line of defense for COVID-19.

Immunization is taken seriously, which is why not all COVID vaccines have qualified for release.

After the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution was paused, the willingness and pace of COVID vaccinations have slowed, making reaching herd immunity difficult.

What is different about the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines?

Two of the three vaccine options currently available in the U.S. are built using messenger RNA

(mRNA) instead of introducing the traditional weakened version of a germ into the body.

mRNA vaccines work by delivering tiny pieces of the SARS CoV-2’s genetic code to your body’s host cells, giving them instructions on how to produce the kind of spike proteins needed to fight off illness.

The structure of mRNA vaccines is similar to traditional vaccines because they use proteins to stimulate an immune response and develop memory cells for building natural antibodies.

Common side effects for each vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) include:

  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Redness and swelling at the injection site

On extremely rare occasions, mRNA vaccines have appeared to trigger anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, to the COVID vaccine include:

  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Pale skin
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Swollen tongue or throat
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting

Just to be safe, the CDC requires vaccination sites to monitor all patients for at least 15 minutes after each vaccination dose. For anyone with a previous history of severe allergies or on a blood thinner prescription, an additional 15 minutes of observation is recommended.

Does the COVID-19 vaccine prevent the spread of coronavirus disease?

Clinical studies have shown that all three approved vaccines will decrease the likelihood of severe illness and death caused by COVID-19. Preventing severe illness is a huge milestone to note in this pandemic. However, there is not enough data to confidently say that vaccination will prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Please do not mistake lack of data for incorrect news. As a society, we are used to having access to instant information, so being told to wait makes us uneasy. Although there are areas of uncertainty, there will be more available data on the impact of COVID-19 for the fully vaccinated with the information we know now.

In addition, many insurers are offering reduced Coronavirus auto insurance rates, which will help encourage more social distancing and further reduce the spread.

Finally, you should consult with your family doctor if you are unsure how the vaccine will affect your overall health. To help ease some anxiety, below is a list that will give you answers to common questions about COVID-19 vaccinations:

  • For how long will the vaccine protect me, and will I have to get a COVID-19 shot every year? Still developing
  • Can I get two different COVID-19 vaccinations? Not recommended
  • Can I wait longer than six weeks to get my second dose? Not recommended
  • Should I get my second dose before the recommended time? Not recommended
  • Should I get vaccines if I currently have COVID? No
  • Will I have to pay to get vaccinated? No
  • Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA? No
  • Do any of the vaccines give you COVID-19? No
  • After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test? No
  • Can the CDC mandate that I get a COVID-19 vaccine? No
  • Are vaccinations safe for immunocompromised individuals? Yes

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Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Ahmedabad Local journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.