Understanding Vaccine Safety

We are strongly urging all of our community members-residents, Associates and ancillary providers who regularly come to the community-to take the coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is offered. This tool is the long-awaited weapon for winning the war against COVID-19.
who live and work in congregate living environments are first up for the vaccine as the experts believe they will benefit most from it and in so doing, will help preserve scarce resources for others.

Yet Highly Effective Development

Some people are concerned about the speed at which this vaccine has been approved. Here are some facts that we hope will provide you comfort as you roll up your sleeve.

  • The vaccine development and approval process has not been short circuited. All of the mandated trials have been completed. In fact, the third stage trial was completed with larger sample sizes meaning more people participated than is typical. What is different is the federal support for this public health endeavor and the exceptional commitment of the pharmaceutical companies and their teams to rapidly and safely develop the vaccine. While a distant third reason, it is important to mention that the government contracted for large purchases before the vaccine was complete, taking some of the financial risk out of the process and providing needed capital for development.
  • The first two vaccines which are expected to get approval use a new means to prompt the body to produce antibodies to fight the virus. The goal of all vaccines is similar—to encourage the body to produce the antibodies to fight the virus if the individual is exposed. MRNA vaccines have shorter manufacturing timeframes and can be developed in a lab using readily available materials.
  • MRNA technology has been studied for more than 10 years. The vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing the disease in the individual being vaccinated. Here is the CDCs explanation of the new vaccine and how it works:

A New Approach to Vaccines

mRNA vaccines take advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins in order to trigger an immune response and build immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In contrast, most vaccines use weakened or inactivated versions or components of the disease-causing pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response to create antibodies.

Mechanism for Action

mRNA vaccines have strands of genetic material called mRNA inside a special coating. That coating protects the mRNA from enzymes in the body that would otherwise break it down. It also helps the mRNA enter the muscle cells near the vaccination site.

mRNA can most easily be described as instructions for the cell on how to make a piece of the “spike protein” that is unique to SARS-CoV-2. Since only part of the protein is made, it does not do any harm to the person vaccinated but it is antigenic.

After the piece of the spike protein is made, the cell breaks down the mRNA strand and disposes of them using enzymes in the cell. It is important to note that the mRNA strand never enters the cell’s nucleus or affects genetic material. This information helps counter misinformation about how mRNA vaccines alter or modify someone’s genetic makeup.

Once displayed on the cell surface, the protein or antigen causes the immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. These antibodies are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which means the immune system is primed to protect against future infection.

It is important also to know that mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.

While approximately 2% of the individuals who received the vaccine during the trials had a reaction to the vaccine, the side effects were short lived, generally not longer than 24 hours. Relations included soreness at the injection site, fever, chills and in some cases vomiting all of which resolved completely. Word from the trial participants is that 400mg of ibuprofen (assuming you can take ibuprofen) before each dose, keeping hydrated and taking a Tylenol before bed helps!

Today, COVID-19 remains an adversary against which we battle. If we all step up and participate in the vaccination programs, I believe we can win the war in 2021. It will mean not only the vaccine but taking care to prevent infection among others who are still waiting for their turn. Mask up, wash up and speak up!