Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak across the U.S. in late January of 2020, ever-changing information about the disease, safety measures, and vaccine efficacy has stirred fear and uncertainty. The facts remain: more than 776,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 and vaccines remain the strongest and safest defense against the virus.
Completed primary vaccinations and booster shots are critical as variants of concern such as Delta and newly identified Omicron continue to emerge. Though it is not yet clear if Omicron is more transmissible than other variants, as Delta is, evidence from affected areas of South Africa has prompted research to learn more.
All variants of COVID-19 can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key. Your body is your business and it’s important to remember that your health decisions are yours alone to make. As misinformation continues to spread, discussing concerns with a care provider you trust can help you make the decision that’s right for you.
The seemingly rushed development of the COVID-19 vaccine has contributed to controversy surrounding vaccine safety. However, before the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, scientists researched similar coronaviruses called SARS and MERS. This research provided the head start needed to develop the COVID-19 vaccination.
The method used to create the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines has been used for more than two decades. This technology was created specifically to help vaccine makers respond quickly to a new pandemic illness. Following their initial outbreak, China quickly isolated and shared genetic information about the new coronavirus, allowing scientists to begin making a vaccine to combat COVID-19 specifically. The collaborative global effort allowed tests to be conducted simultaneously to gather data faster.
Companies easily found volunteers for clinical trials, eager to represent their own communities. Because COVID-19 has hit Black and Hispanic communities the hardest, researchers made sure to include these populations in clinical trials. Medical research has historically excluded Black and Hispanic experiences, prompting COVID-19 vaccine researchers to ensure volunteers included people of color and adults from many walks of life.
The COVID-19 vaccine has passed the same rigorous development process all vaccines must go through to ensure safety. A three-phase trial tested on a small number of adults evaluates safety, dosage, side effects, and immune response. If no safety concerns are present, the trial continues to the next phase.
In some emergencies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to give access to critical medical products because no approved products are available. Because the COVID-19 pandemic was deemed a public health emergency, all three authorized vaccines were first made available under an EUA.
Full FDA approval takes longer as more data needs to be processed and reviewed over a longer period of time. When full approval has been granted, it is based on large amounts of scientific data, as well as the ability to be manufactured reliably, consistently, and safely.
On August 23, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine received full approval by the FDA for use in adults. However, administration of the Pfizer vaccine in children is still under an EUA as data continues to be monitored.
How Do COVID-19 Vaccines Work?
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to send the body’s cells instructions for making a protein that is part of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The immune system is then trained to recognize and attack when attached to the actual virus. The first vaccine dose primes the body, and the second dose strengthens the immune response.
mRNA enters cells for the sole purpose of causing the cells to make protein to stimulate the immune system. The mRNA then quickly breaks down. It does not enter the nucleus of the cells, where DNA resides, and it does not affect your DNA.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a different approach. A harmless adenovirus is engineered to carry genetic code on the proteins to the cells. Once the cells receive this code, they produce a protein to train the body’s immune system to protect against the virus.
The FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain normal vaccine ingredients including fats, salts, and a small amount of sugar, as well as mRNA in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. None of the vaccines contain eggs, metal, fetal tissue, implants, or microchips. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the virus and cannot give you the virus.
More than 196 million Americans have safely received two doses of the vaccine, and more than 40 million have gone on to receive a third booster dose. Though there have been reports of serious adverse side effects, the FDA and CDC have been extremely transparent. In April 2021, these organizations paused the administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to review adverse cases. The benefits of the vaccine were determined to outweigh the risk of this very rare side effect, and authorization resumed.
Why Do I Need Multiple Shots?
The immune response to two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines provokes a much stronger immune response than just one dose. The first dose begins the process of building up protection, while the second dose reinforces this. Several common vaccines require multiple doses, including measles-mumps-rubella, hepatitis A and B, and the shingles vaccine.
While it is true that one dose of the vaccine will offer some protection against the virus, it is not nearly as effective as receiving both doses. Mutations such as the Delta variant will also continue to challenge the strength of the original vaccine, making the second shot critical.
If possible, appointments for the second COVID-19 vaccine should be made at the time you receive your first to ensure they are within the required time interval. However, the second dose can be given up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose. If more than six weeks have passed since your first dose, contact the location at which you received your vaccine to determine if you need to re-start your COVID-19 vaccination process.
Even if you’ve recovered from COVID-19, health experts are still learning how long you are protected before you are at risk of getting sick again. Though clinical trials continue to monitor the COVID-19 recovery process, there is still uncertainty of the short-term and long-term effects.
Booster shots are now available for all three COVID-19 vaccines. Booster shots can help your body maintain a higher level of immunity and protection against the virus as well as breakthrough infections. A breakthrough infection occurs when someone who is fully vaccinated gets COVID-19. That person can still get sick and spread the virus to others—although most vaccinated people will have milder symptoms.
Researchers evaluated 1.1 million individuals who got a COVID-19 booster shot. After 12 days, they were almost 20 times less likely to test positive for COVID-19 and less likely to have severe symptoms compared with people who did not get a booster shot. Research shows that immunity against COVID-19 diminishes over time, and a booster shot can help your body stay protected longer.
Adults 18 years and older who are interested in receiving a booster dose of the vaccine to increase protection against the COVID-19 virus are now able to do so. A booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer is especially recommended at least six months after the initial series.
Individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine can receive a booster shot at least 2 months after their initial vaccination. Expert recommendations allow for mix and match dosing for booster shots. You may choose which brand you’d prefer for your booster dose (Moderna or Pfizer), and you do not need to receive it at the same location as your initial dose.
Vaccines for Children
Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible for a low-dose Pfizer vaccine to get immunized against COVID-19. The dose is about one-third of an adult dose and has been rigorously tested and proven to be 91% effective in protecting against the virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all eligible children get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. It is safe for children to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at the same time as a flu shot.
Clinical trials reveal vaccines for children are safe and offer strong protection against COVID-19, including against the Delta variant. Trials included thousands of children who were closely monitored by pediatricians and experts to help ensure safety.
Although fewer children and teens have been infected with COVID-19 than adults, they can still catch the virus, get sick, and spread the virus to others. The Pfizer vaccine helps protect the people around them, including family members, those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or those who can’t get vaccinated.
There are also a variety of “long-haul” symptoms your child can experience after having COVID-19 such as: brain fog, fatigue, weak muscles, mood changes and more. COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect your family against COVID-19 and post-COVID conditions, including long-haul COVID, which can affect people of all ages.
COVID-19 in Missouri
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Data Tracker, community transmission rates of COVID-19 across Missouri are high. Residents are encouraged to continue wearing masks in indoor public spaces. In the last week, Missouri has reported more than 10,000 active cases and more than 100 new hospital admissions. Although more than half the total eligible population has initiated vaccination (58.2%), not everyone (51.1%) has completed the primary dosing.
Missouri is one of 39 states where rural counties have higher rates of COVID-19 than their urban counterparts. In Lafayette County, 48.2% of the eligible population has received one dose while only 42.4% have been fully vaccinated. Although the vaccine is free and does not require proof of insurance, many rural residents simply lack transportation to an appointment. Missouri has several ride assistance options available to help residents travel to and from COVID-19 vaccinations.
For others, the matter is more personal. Despite the data, politics have turned a private decision into a public debate. Don’t worry about what others will think if you get vaccinated. Instead, consider the alternative: who will care for your loved ones if you are not here?
If you are hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, make a plan to talk to your provider about what’s best for you. Identify your concerns, make a list of questions, and ask about your risk factors. Your body is your business, and so is your confidential choice to get the shot.
The Lafayette County Health Department (LCHD) is offering Pfizer vaccines, including pediatric doses for children ages 5-11, during walk-in clinic hours every Monday and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adults can also receive the Pfizer vaccine at LCHD the last Tuesday of the month from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
There are several ways for adults to find a free COVID-19 vaccine:
- Search for vaccine appointments at Vaccines.gov, where you can search for availability by vaccine type.
- Call the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1.800.232.0233 (or TTY 1.888.720.7489). Help is available in multiple languages.
- Locate local vaccination events in Missouri at MOStopsCovid.com.
- Seniors and homebound adults can make arrangements using information at MOStopsCovid.com/seniors.
Unless otherwise stipulated, information in this article was sourced from https://getvaccineanswers.org/.