The COVID-19 vaccine and subsequent steps

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composition of coronavirus vaccine on table near syringe and pills
Photo by Alena Shekhovtcova on Pexels.com

The COVID-19 death toll is still rising in the U.S. and ICUs across the country are filling up. About 24 million people in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19 and over 400,000 people have died due to the virus. 

This is why it is so incredibly important for people to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. However, many people have voiced concerns regarding the vaccine worldwide, due to circumstances and myths surrounding these vaccines. 

Numerous myths revolve around the fact that the vaccine was produced very quickly. Although this is true — the vaccines were produced quickly due to the nature of the pandemic — this does not mean that they are unsafe. Linda Yancey, infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas, pointed out that part of the reason why these vaccines were developed so quickly is because scientists were solely focused on this project. 

“Numerous myths revolve around the fact that the vaccine was produced very quickly. Although this is true — the vaccines were produced quickly due to the nature of the pandemic — this does not mean that they are unsafe.”

It is also important to note that yes, the COVID-19 vaccine was produced quickly, however, the technology used for the vaccine has been researched for years. The COVID-19 vaccine uses “mRNA technology” in order for the vaccine to be effective. For COVID-19 specifically, the mRNA vaccine has instructions on how to make a harmless protein called the “spike protein” found on the surface of the virus. When the virus is administered, the cells make these proteins and the instructions that the vaccine provides helps to break them down. Essentially, the body is given a blueprint on how to combat the virus without actually having the virus. Therefore, people have the benefits of protection without actually having to fall sick. mRNA vaccines can also be produced rapidly, contributing to fast vaccine production. 

scientist working in laboratory
The COVID-19 vaccine uses “mRNA technology” in order for the vaccine to be effective. For COVID-19 specifically, the mRNA vaccine has instructions on how to make a harmless protein called the “spike protein” found on the surface of the virus. When the virus is administered, the cells make these proteins and the instructions that the vaccine provides helps to break them down. Essentially, the body is given a blueprint on how to combat the virus without actually having the virus. Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels.com

Scientists and researchers have tested and retested the COVID-19 vaccine numerous times. They are constantly monitoring to ensure no significant side effects become apparent. It is much riskier to not take the vaccine and possibly contract the virus, given that the virus is so new and we are still relatively unaware of long term effects. 

Before dismissing the vaccine due to misconceptions, people should take time to research information from trusted sources. The pandemic in general has been plagued with misinformation, so researching the virus and the vaccine is one of the best methods possible to combat these myths. 

Which brings me to my next point — what comes next after taking the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Everyone is, of course, eager to resume “normal life.” From hanging out with friends in person to not getting a swab shoved up your nose every so often, many long for a semblance of life before the pandemic. However, everyone should understand that even though the vaccine is here, this does not mean that once people are vaccinated, they do not have to wear masks, practice social distancing or adhere to strict hygiene practices. 

“everyone should understand that even though the vaccine is here, this does not mean that once people are vaccinated, they do not have to wear masks, practice social distancing or adhere to strict hygiene practices.”

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are available in the U.S., do provide immunity after a certain amount of time. For the Pfizer vaccine, 95% immunity is achieved seven days after the second dose. For the Moderna vaccine, 94% immunity is achieved 14 days after the second dose. This means that a person’s own risk of contracting COVID-19 after this time period is significantly reduced. However, it is still possible to contract the virus after receiving the vaccine, and it is still unclear whether or not the virus can be passed on by a vaccinated person to someone who has not been vaccinated yet. Since this information is relatively unknown, and since the vaccines are not 100% effective, it is important to continue being cautious until herd immunity is achieved. 

This was emphasized in an interview between comedian Stephen Colbert and CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on “The Late Show., . When Colbert asked if Gupta can move at liberty and if he still has to stay masked, Gupta answered that he would have to resume many of the same practices. 

crop man putting medical mask on face of ethnic child
Despite the new vaccine, it is still strongly advised that individuals continue practicing social distancing, effective self sanitation, and wearing mask in public spaces. Thus being, that a vaccine is not the solution to setting life back to what it use to be. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

“When we say the vaccine is 95% effective, I think a fair question is ‘95% effective at what?’ Well, it’s 95% effective at keeping me from getting sick, which is really important and does give me a sense of comfort that I won’t get sick. But I could still become infected and carry the virus in my mouth, my nose and I could still potentially transmit it. Therein lies the issue; it’s great that it’ll keep me from getting sick, but I will still wear masks until enough people have been vaccinated so they also won’t get sick. That doesn’t happen in days and weeks; that takes months,” said Gupta

““When we say the vaccine is 95% effective, I think a fair question is ‘95% effective at what?’ Well, it’s 95% effective at keeping me from getting sick, which is really important and does give me a sense of comfort that I won’t get sick. But I could still become infected and carry the virus in my mouth, my nose and I could still potentially transmit it.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Medical Correspondent

When enough people get vaccinated, this creates “herd immunity,” since the population has enough protection from the virus. The number of people required for herd immunity varies based on the type of infection, and for COVID-19, this number is unknown. 

In the meantime, there are a few things that we can and should be doing. First, we should continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and maintaining good hygiene. This includes not going to parties and staying home when possible. Second, we should all research vaccine options and information about COVID-19 from reputable sources in order to stay informed. Such sources may include the WHO, CDC and other news sources, preferably while double-checking to make sure that important information has been reported in multiple places. 

The pros of getting the immunization clearly outweigh the cons. Taking the COVID-19 vaccine gets us one step closer to achieving herd immunity, and finally resuming our lives as they were. 

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