Since the coronavirus first arrived in the United States last March, scientists and researchers have been hard at work creating a vaccine. Now, there are three different types of vaccines to choose from, and they’re available to most people who are 18 or older.
All three COVID-19 vaccines have undergone extensive clinical trials and have proven to be safe and effective. Over the past three months, vaccination providers have administered more than 145 million doses in the U.S., alone. With more doses — and two new vaccines — on the way, it’s important to learn how these vaccines work so you can dismiss misinformation and confidently encourage others to get vaccinated with you.
Preventing and Recovering From Infection
If you’ve already had COVID-19, a vaccine won’t reverse the long-lasting effects. However, receiving a dose — or a set of two— can prevent you from getting it again.
In the meantime, you can recover from COVID-19 and minimize symptoms by exercising regularly. Retrain your respiratory muscles and boost lung capacity with a total-body workout that incorporates strength training and cardio.
Those who haven’t yet contracted the virus should also get the vaccine to slow the spread and prepare their immune system for a COVID-19 attack. Receiving a vaccine can also prevent you from becoming seriously ill, experiencing long-term symptoms or dying if you do contract the virus.
Currently, there are three types of vaccines in the U.S., and each uses a slightly different method to fight infection and produce immunity.
On December 11 of last year, Pfizer-BioNTech became the first vaccine to receive emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. People receive this vaccine in two doses, with the second shot coming three to six weeks after the first. Common side effects include chills, headache, swelling at the injection site and fatigue, all of which tend to resolve on their own within a day or two.
The Pfizer vaccine is a messenger RNA vaccine, which delivers a tiny piece of genetic code from the SARS CoV-2 virus into your body. This code gives your cells blueprints to begin making the harmless S protein found on the surface of the virus.
Soon, your immune system will begin replicating and displaying this S protein on each one of your cells and prompt your body to create antibodies. These little guys will fight off the coronavirus if you happen to contract it.
Seven days after the FDA approved Pfizer for emergency use, it authorized the Moderna vaccine, which uses the same mRNA technology to fight off COVID-19. Like its predecessor, this vaccine is also available in the U.S. and involves two doses 28 days apart. Side effects and efficacy are similar to that of the Pfizer vaccine as well.
However, there are two key differences between these two vaccines. Unlike Pfizer, Moderna can be kept for 30 days using normal refrigeration or stored in long-term storage in standard freezer temperatures. It’s also slightly less effective in people who are 65 and older.
3. Johnson & Johnson
Last month, the FDA also granted emergency use approval for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot. This vaccine also works differently than mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna.
Instead of directly injecting the host with a genetic code, vaccination providers will inject a harmless adenovirus as a shell to carry a genetic code on spike proteins. Once the code is inside the cells, they can produce a spike protein to train the immune system and create antibodies to protect against infection.
However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s overall efficacy was only 66%, which is much lower than that of the other two vaccines. In other words, it doesn’t work as well against mild to moderate disease.
Scientists around the world are still working on two other vaccines, both of which are currently in Phase three of clinical trials in the U.S. The United Kingdom and a few other countries are already using one, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, because it’s more affordable to make and easy to transport and store. This vaccine works like the one from Johnson & Johnson but requires two doses.
The second vaccine-in-the-making is Novavax, which shows promising evidence of being effective against COVID-19 and mutations that have emerged in Great Britain and South Africa. Unlike the other vaccines in this list, Novavax is a protein adjuvant that contains the spike protein of the coronavirus itself. This protein can’t cause disease but will stimulate antibody production and T-cell immune responses.
Hope for the Future
As long as people continue to learn about coronavirus vaccines, there’s hope for the future. As you come to understand more about the efficacy of each vaccine, remember to share this information with your friends and family.
Doing so will help prevent the spread of misinformation and encourage everyone to get the vaccine so you can get back to living a worry-free, COVID-free life.