Since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government has been working to make a covid vaccine available as soon as possible. Vaccines will perhaps be our best hope for ending the coronavirus pandemic because they can help protect you from the virus by creating an antibody response in your body without you having to become sick.
It also might prevent you from getting COVID-19 or, if you get COVID-19, it might keep you from becoming seriously ill or developing serious complications. Getting vaccinated also might help protect people around you from the virus, particularly people at high risk. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) begins the process of authorizing emergency use for the first few vaccines, you’re likely to have questions. Read below to get some answers.
Typically, vaccine development requires years of research and testing. But with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic and the urgent need for many vaccines, there are currently several COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials. As always, the FDA must approve these trials before approving COVID-19 any vaccines for use.
However, because the FDA's normal vaccine approval process can take many months or even years, the FDA will first be giving emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccines based on less data than is normally required. For two leading contenders granted this emergency authorization, the FDA found the data to show that the vaccines were both safe and effective.
On December 11 2020, the FDA granted the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine the first emergency use authorization ever given by the United States to a coronavirus vaccine. The data showed this vaccine to be about 95% effective, meaning that about 95% of people who get the vaccine are protected from becoming seriously ill with the virus. It requires two doses, given three weeks apart, and data has also shown that the vaccine starts working soon after the first dose is given.
This vaccine is for people age 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine uses messenger RNA, or mRNA. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give cells instructions to make harmless proteins that mimic coronavirus proteins, which the immune system recognizes and builds an immune response to.
The FDA gave emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine on December 18 2020, one week after the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. This vaccine is 94.5% effective, and also requires two doses, though they are given four weeks apart. The FDA has authorized the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in individuals 18 years of age and older. The Moderna vaccine is also an mRNA vaccine.
For a few days after receiving the vaccine, you may experience a few mild side effects. These are normal signs that your body is building an immune response to the virus. Side effects include pain or swelling at the injection site, and fever, chills, fatigue and headache.
Even after you’ve received two doses of the vaccine, you will still need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others. Experts and researchers are still learning about the protection provided by COVID-19 vaccines, so it’s still important to take as many precautions as possible to help stop the spread of the virus.
Keep your mouth and nose covered with a mask, wash your hands often, and continue to stay at least 6 feet away from others. The vaccine, in combination with the CDC’s recommendations for how to protect yourself and others, offer the best protection from getting and spreading COVID-19.
As of today there is not enough information currently available to know how long immunity will last once you have been vaccinated. Experts will need to have more data on how well the vaccines work and how well the vaccines protect against reinfection in order to determine how long immunity will last.
References “Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Dec. 2020, “Get the Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Dec. 2020, “What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Dec. 2020,