Understanding the COVID-19 Vaccines

Part 1 Of Our Vaccine Content Series

By Meaghan Enright
Love City Strong Blog : Understanding COVID-19 Vaccines

In December of 2019 the world was introduced to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov), now commonly known as COVID-19. 

Scientists worldwide immediately began to map the genome of the virus. This means they were essentially learning the blueprint of how it’s built and how it works. Genome mapping is the first step to understanding a virus and learning how to treat it. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, the development of a vaccine became a global priority. Experts around the world shifted to a single focus, and ultimately yielded the fastest vaccine development in history. 

As with any new-to-market vaccine or treatment, people have questions. Are these vaccines safe? Are they effective? What are the long term effects? All of these questions and more are valid. Access to accurate scientific facts and data is helpful in understanding the COVID-19 vaccines.

The two vaccines that are currently available in the United States (at the time of this post’s publication) are the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. Both of these fall into the category of mRNA vaccines. Different types of vaccines work in different ways, but their purpose is always the same – teach your body to recognize an intruding illness and defend itself against the intruder.

Today’s COVID-19 messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are based on more than 30 years of research. This type of vaccine is of particular interest because they can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials, making them easily standardized and scalable compared to more traditional vaccination techniques. For these reasons, development can move more quickly once the virus’ genome has been mapped.

Messenger RNA vaccines have been studied in the past for flu, Zika, and rabies. Cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells. In the future, scientists hope that mRNA vaccine technology can use one vaccine to target multiple diseases, thereby reducing the overall number of vaccinations that a person needs. 

Some important facts about the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines include:

  • mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19. 
  • mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is stored.
  • The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.

For specific details about the Pfizer vaccine trials, click here

For specific details about the Moderna vaccine trials, click here.

If you are concerned about allergic reactions, pregnancy, or preexisting health conditions, reach out to your primary care provider. They will be able give you the most accurate information for you and your needs, and a more personal understanding of the vaccines will help you make an informed decision. 

By getting vaccinated, you not only help protect yourself from the virus, you also help your community and frontline healthcare workers. Experts estimate that 70%-80% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. At those levels, the spread of COVID-19 would become difficult and the curve would be flattened. 

When those who CAN get vaccinated DO, they help protect those in the community who may not be able to get vaccinated due to access, age, or immunocompromised status. Understanding the COVID-19 vaccines can help increase confidence in the process, and help you support your community.

To make a vaccine appointment in the US Virgin Islands, visit VITEMA’s COVID-19 Vaccination site to schedule with a provider on your island. In the greater United States, visit the CDC website to find a provider and appointment near you.