As more and more people are getting their shots, here are answers to some questions about the COVID-19 vaccine that might still bug you
Around mid-March of this year, more than 380 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, around 5.7 million of those in Indonesia. And the numbers keep on rising.
That being said, there are still plenty of us with doubts about getting the shot. No, we’re not talking about those crazy conspiracy theories that’s never in short supply. Because actually, it’s normal to be at least a bit skeptical of something as crucial as the supposed solution to one of the biggest medical crises we’ve ever had the misfortune of having to live through.
So, with that being said, here are a collection of basic facts that are most frequently asked as well as most crucial to understand.
HOES DOES THE VACCINE WORK? IS IT SAFE?
These are, unsurprisingly, the two biggest questions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, and often pop up again when somebody mentions how fast it was developed, how available vaccines use some sort of new technology and so on. So, here’s the deal:
Traditionally, a vaccine introduces a weakened or dead pathogen, or even proteins created by the germs, which allows our immune system to identify and fight it should the real thing invade our bodies. The COVID-19 vaccines by companies such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, however, are classified as messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. These vaccines introduce an mRNA that is basically the “code” to create a specific protein—called a spike protein—that is the hallmark of the coronavirus. This allows our body to recreate the protein and direct our immune response to target it.
Should an actual SARS-CoV-2 virus make its way into a vaccinated human, the human’s immune system would automatically identify it as a threat and attack it. Think of it as your body’s security team being trained to recognize a fake ID and arrest anybody carrying one. And, since no actual virus is introduced to your body—dead or alive, complete or partial—it’s much safer.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS, THOUGH?
As with any other vaccine, getting the one for COVID-19 will have side effects. However, in normal circumstances, that’s just a sign that the vaccine is working. Common side effects include pain near where the vaccine was injected, redness and soreness, as well as fatigue, headache, chills, fever and nausea. These can last for a few days.
Furthermore, side effects of the vaccine can feel more intense in younger people who have more robust immune systems.
SO, WHEN WILL IT START WORKING AND HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?
It takes time for the human body to build an immune response. Usually that means two to three weeks. In this case, a person can be considered fully immunized against COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after receiving a single-dose variant, like the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.
How long we stay protected after that, however, is still unclear. Estimates range from six months up to a few years. Studying how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts is, unfortunately, not something that can be accelerated.
HOW SOON WILL THINGS RETURN TO THE WAY IT WAS BEFORE?
That’s, of course, that’s the million-dollar question: How long before we can return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle? Or, in other words, what’s the endgame with vaccination? A while back, the idea was to achieve the “herd-immunity threshold” where there are too few hosts around to maintain transmission of COVID-19. Most estimates placed this threshold at 60 to 70-percent of the population becoming immune to the virus through vaccination or past exposure. Many scientists, however, are now doubtful that this scenario is feasible.
Essentially, it’s still unclear whether the vaccines we have now can stop transmission. Sure, they seem to be effective at preventing symptomatic disease, as shown by the drop in hospitalizations. But it remains unclear whether the vaccines actually prevent the spread of the virus. Then there’s also the issue of how uneven vaccine distribution, how there are no vaccines approved for children yet and so on.
All that being said, it’s not all doom and gloom. The disease isn’t going to disappear completely, but we do have vaccines that actu-ally work and we’ve become incredibly successful in reducing hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19. So, in the end, take the shot when you get the opportunity, but keep wearing a mask, maintain social distancing, etc. If not for ourselves, then for the greater good.
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