As some COVID-19 vaccines are working towards mass distribution worldwide, you may be uncertain about receiving the vaccine. Listed below are the answers to four frequently asked questions regarding the vaccine so you can have some peace of mind as the mass release approaches.
1. Is the vaccine safe?
Yes, it is safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine. First of all, there are three phases of testing that every vaccine has to undergo before it is announced safe for the public to receive, and in order for the testing to show great results, tens of thousands of people need to volunteer to be the "guinea pigs" of the vaccine. Second, the FDA will approve a vaccine only if it has gone through the proper testing process, shows that no adverse reactions occurred in the volunteers, and the vaccine is at least 50% effective.
2. How is the vaccine made?
Unlike any other kind of vaccine made in all of history, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the firsts of its kind - and that's a good thing. For the first time ever, both Pfizer and Moderna were able to develop their vaccines WITHOUT growing any part of the virus. Therefore, they did not spend months growing a weakened/dead strand of virus, which is why they were able to move straight to testing a lot quicker than usual in the process of vaccine development. Instead, they take a piece of the virus' mRNA (which is just a set of instructions) and add an outside coating to it. That's all that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines consist of: instructions and coating - not the actual virus. The specific mRNA that is used is the part that has the instructions to make the spike protein that is found on the actual COVID-19 virus. The outer coating is there so that it can attach itself to our cells, allowing the mRNA to get in. Once the mRNA is in our cells, those cells then make the spike protein (because the mRNA instructs it to), and from there, our immune system is able to detect those spikes and fight against them.
3. Can the vaccine make me sick with the virus?
No. Contrary to popular belief, vaccines are actually incapable of making people sick with the virus, and here's the explanation. Vaccines are used as a preventative measure. They prevent you from getting sick from a virus. If you're already infected with the virus, then the vaccine is no longer useful. We've all heard the saying, "I got the flu shot, but I still got the flu." This is because you had been exposed to the flu before you received the flu vaccine, but your symptoms took a couple of days to show up, which just happened to be after you got the flu vaccine. That is why it is strongly recommended to get the flu vaccine as early as possible.
4. Is the vaccine tested thoroughly?
Yes. According to "Coronavirus, Explained," a science and technology docuseries on Netflix, clinical trials for a new vaccine are split up into three different phases. In the first phase, "Vaccines are given to a small group of people, [then they] wait a few months, and see if any of them report dangerous side effects." In the second phase, "If everything looks good, the vaccine moves on and is given to a couple hundred people, again, to see if there are any dangerous side effects, but also to see if people's immune systems ramp up. That involves more waiting, usually months." In the third phase, "Thousands are vaccinated to triple-check for side effects and see how well it works," which is yet another few months of waiting.
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