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What to Expect After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

writtenByWritten by: Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

March 3, 2021 Read Time - 7 minutes

What is the COVID-19 Vaccine?

COVID-19, also referred to as “coronavirus,” is the new respiratory infection that has caused a global pandemic. COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019” and is a virus called SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to become infected with the illness. 

According to CDC figures, 60% of US deaths occur in patients aged 75 and older, despite the elderly population only making up about 6% of cases. This and many other reasons have pushed for Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership initiated by the US government to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. 

Continue reading to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines currently available, as well as what to expect after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

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How Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines work by triggering our immune system to use tools to fight infection, including COVID-19. After being exposed naturally to the infection, the body’s immune system remembers what it learned and how to protect the body against that disease. The same is true when the body is artificially exposed to the infection via vaccine. 

Is There a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Yes, there are several COVID-19 vaccines available throughout the world, but only 3 are currently available in the United States. Nucleic acid vaccines (RNA and DNA) provide cells with instructions to make the antigen (produced by our immunity cells) against a disease. There are no DNA vaccines licensed for human use, but there are mRNA vaccines now available with new technology. The two nucleic acid vaccines (mRNA) available for COVID-19 are:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

These vaccines are known as mRNA vaccines, which teach cells how to make a protein from the virus to trigger an immune response. These vaccines give our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. This gives our immune system a blueprint to make defenses against the virus. The mRNA specifically makes the “spike” protein found on the surface of COVID-19 virus cells.

The third COVID-19 vaccine currently available in the United States is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine manufactured with adenovirus type 26 (Ad26). According to the FDA, the Ad26 is used to deliver a piece of the genetic material used to make the “spike” protein of SARS-CoV-2. This allows the immune system to learn to react defensively and produce an immune response against COVID-19 cells.

Other types of vaccines are being created and may be available in the near future. These types of vaccines include:

  • Protein subunit vaccines – use pieces of the pathogen (fragments of protein) to trigger immune responses.
  • Viral vector vaccines – work by giving cells genetic instructions to produce antigens against a disease, but differ from nucleic acid vaccines in that they use a harmless virus to deliver the instructions into the cell, instead of our own cellular machinery being hijacked to produce the antigen.
  • Whole virus (live attenuated) – use a weakened form of the virus that can still replicate without causing illness. Inactivated virus vaccines trigger immune response with a virus whose genetic material is destroyed and therefore cannot replicate.

Other countries around the world are using mRNA vaccines. Currently, the US, Canada, UK, EU, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, and Israel have purchased mRNA vaccines to distribute.


Read: Coronavirus Resource Center


When Will a Vaccine Be Ready for COVID-19?

The mRNA vaccines are currently available in the United States. At the time of writing, a total of more than 102 million vaccine doses have been delivered in the US, with 78.6 million doses administered as of March 2, 2021, according to the CDC.

President Joe Biden outlined a plan to deploy the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to assist states in the logistics of vaccine administration, aiming to inoculate 100 million people by the end of April 2021.

The CDC issued new guidelines that expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone age 65 and older as well as those with comorbid conditions, such as diabetes, heart failure, and COPD. 

Some 53 million Americans who are 65 and older and 110 million people between 16 and 64 with comorbid conditions are now eligible to receive the vaccine.


Related: Get a COVID-19 Vaccine Doctor’s Note in New York


What COVID-19 Vaccines Are Approved by the FDA?

The FDA has given emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Data has shown that the vaccine starts working soon after the first dose and has an efficacy rate of 95% after the second dose.

The FDA has also given EUA to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also known as the Janssen vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered in a single dose.

COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects

Side effects should be prompted as “expected” side effects of developing immunity to any virus. After the vaccination, it is common to exhibit the following mild to moderate side effects:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the site of injection (arm)
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain

After you receive the vaccine, healthcare officials will monitor you for 15 minutes to make sure that you do not have a serious reaction to the vaccine. This will  prompt quick medical treatment if by chance you have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Side effects should go away within a few days.

Can a COVID-19 Vaccine Make Me Sick with COVID-19?

No, COVID-19 vaccines will not “infect” you with the coronavirus. Similar to all vaccines, the vaccine’s purpose is to trigger your immune response to identify a threat and remember the threat in the future. 

The mRNA vaccine does not use a “live virus” of COVID-19; therefore it is impossible for the vaccine to infect you. By chance, you can still get infected naturally with COVID-19 until you develop full immunity from the vaccinations, which can take several days up to 2 weeks.

Will a COVID-19 Vaccine Protect Me From Getting Sick with COVID-19?

Yes, the efficacy rate is 95% for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations. The efficacy rate is defined as the performance of a treatment under controlled circumstances and its effectiveness under real-world conditions. 

The efficacy rate determines that the risk of infection is reduced by 95%. Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated he had hoped that the efficacy rate was at least 75%. Current data suggests vaccines are well above that target goal.


Read: Recovering from COVID-19


COVID-19 Vaccine Second Dose

The 2 mRNA vaccines currently available in the US require two doses. The first dose triggers your immune system to recognize the virus and begins to make antibodies. The second dose is needed to ensure the body “remembers” the protein and secures long-term protection. The second dose is a necessary booster shot to reach 95% efficacy. The efficacy rate for one dose of the vaccine has not been determined.

COVID-19 vaccine second dose timing is specific to which vaccine you get. When receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine the second dose is given 21 days apart. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is given 28 days apart.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered as a single dose.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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How Long Will It Take to Build Immunity After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine?

It typically takes a few weeks (12 to 14 days) for the body to produce immunity after vaccinations. Therefore, it is possible that a person could become infected naturally with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or after vaccination. This is because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection.


Read More About The COVID-19 Vaccine


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Demographic Trends of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US reported to CDC. Accessed on February 24, 2021 at
https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#demographics

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States. Accessed on January 18, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/clinical-considerations.html 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work. Accessed on January 18, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/how-they-work.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What to Expect after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine. Accessed on January 18, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html

 

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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