With authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines now available in the US, we have real hope for stopping the pandemic. There are currently two FDA-authorized mRNA vaccines for COVID-19: the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine (for ages 16+) and the Moderna vaccine (for ages 18+). Below, we answer some common questions about these newly developed vaccines, and what they mean for you and your loved ones.
How do the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work?
mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. Rather than using a weakened or inactivated germ to trigger an immune response in the body, mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a harmless protein—or even just a piece of a protein. Our immune system recognizes that this protein doesn’t belong, and will begin building an immune response and producing antibodies. These antibodies protect us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
You can visit CDC’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine webpage to learn more about this process.
What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?
COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications and even death in some individuals, and there’s no way of knowing how the virus will affect you. The COVID-19 vaccine offers protection from the illness by creating an antibody response in your body. The vaccines available in the US are highly effective. On the off chance you do still get COVID-19, vaccination will help reduce the severity of your illness and lower the risk of serious complications.
By getting vaccinated, you also help the people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
The vaccines being used under emergency use authorization have been shown to meet rigorous safety criteria and be effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. Take a look at an overview of safety and efficacy data here.
Can I get COVID-19 from the vaccine?
No, the mRNA vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
However, it’s important to remember that it takes several weeks, and 2 separate injections of the vaccine, for the body to build up immunity against COVID. This means it’s possible to become infected with COVID-19 just before or shortly after you receive your vaccination.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
You may feel flu-like symptoms in the first few days after receiving the vaccine. This is normal, and a sign that your body is building protection against COVID.
After getting the vaccine, you may experience:
- Pain and swelling at site of injection
Rest, drink plenty of fluids, and talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for any pain and discomfort.
When will I be able to get the vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccine supplies are limited, and each state has its own plan for deciding which groups of people will be vaccinated first. Contact your local health department for the latest information on how and when you can receive a vaccine.
CDC recommends that states allocate initial supplies of the vaccine to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents. The next phase includes frontline essential workers, such as firefighters, police and correction officers, food and agricultural workers, postal workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, and public transit workers. It also includes adults 75 and older. Phase 3 includes people aged 65-74 years and individuals with underlying conditions.
The goal is for everyone to have access to the vaccine as soon as enough supplies are available.