Which COVID vaccine will you get?
The big debate taking place these days, around every watercooler and kitchen table, is whether or not to obtain the COVID vaccine. The other point of discussion, of course, is which vaccine individuals will receive.
There are several types of vaccines, each developed differently based on factors like the type of infection it will prevent, and where in the world it will be administered. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating infection.” Three COVID vaccines have been given emergency use authorization in the United States, each with its own efficacy rate, utilizing two different technologies - mRNA and viral vector.
The COVID virus contains spike proteins which attach to cells in order to destroy them, while replicating itself. Although formidable, according to the CDC, the spike proteins are ideal targets, so mRNA and viral vector vaccines exploit this feature of the COVID virus.
Using Messenger RNA (mRNA) for medical interventions is not new; they’ve been used in Cancer treatment for a while. Vaccines which are developed using mRNA do not use actual viruses (weakened or inactive). Messenger RNA is “genetic material that tells your body how to make proteins.” (“How mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Work,” Centers for Disease Control.) It teaches the body to reproduce the spike protein, which the body detects as foreign and starts to build immunity against it. If a person is exposed to the COVID virus later, the body will remember it and fight it. Once its work is done, the mRNA is decomposed and leaves the body.
Producing a vaccine using the viral vector approach requires a harmless version of a different virus (not COVID). This process has also been used before, in the production of Ebola vaccines. To increase the likelihood that a person has not been exposed to the vector and already developed immunity to it, scientists are using uncommon viruses to develop the COVID vaccine.
The viral vector enters the cell and gives instructions to produce the spike protein, which the body recognizes as foreign. Through this process, antibodies are created, immune cells are activated and the body learns to fight the COVID virus.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses – a primer injection and a follow-up booster. The most recent vaccine to receive emergency authorization in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson, requires only one injection. Once a person receives a vaccine, it takes a few weeks before the immune system is actually able to fight off infection. When receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, immunity will only begin to develop after the second injection has been given. With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, immunity is established within about two weeks of receiving the single injection.
Advice from the CDC
Experts agree that since the supply of COVID vaccine is still limited, we are still several months from individuals being able to select which vaccine they will receive. Also, the consensus is that the vaccines which have received emergency use authorization are equally capable of preventing severe illness/hospitalization resulting from COVID infection. The CDC advises individuals to accept whichever vaccine is available when an inoculation appointment is granted.
So, now that you know a little more about COVID vaccines, if you are given the choice which will you select? If you’ve already received the vaccine, which one did you get? Where you able to choose?
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“How Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines Work,” Centers for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/hcp/viral-vector-vaccine-basics.html.
“How mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Work,” Centers for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html.
Nexstar Media Wire, “Can you choose which COVID vaccine you get?” KXAN.com, March 20, 2021, https://www.kxan.com/news/coronavirus/can-you-choose-which-covid-vaccine-you-get/.
Henry Ford Health System Staff, “Can I Choose Which COVID-19 Vaccine I Get?” HenryFord.com, March 15, 2021, https://www.henryford.com/blog/2021/03/can-i-choose-which-vaccine-i-get.