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COVID-19 vaccine: Facts about Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, who is eligible, side effects and more
General Wellness

COVID-19 vaccine: Facts about Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, who is eligible, side effects and more

By Your Health staff
Posted: March 23, 2021

COVID-19 vaccination administration is underway in our community.

It’s normal to have questions about new treatments and vaccines. It’s normal for myths and mistruths to circulate when something new comes along.

Looking for information about how we're keeping patients safe?

For the latest information about policies at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare facilities, including our visitor policy, visit the COVID-19 Resource Center.

We want to get you informed, to arm you with the facts, and to assist in your decision to protect yourself and your family with a COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, we have highly effective vaccines that will help stop the spread of COVID-19. But, the responsibility is ours, as a community, to protect our loved ones and do our part to help end this pandemic.



OVERVIEW

COVID-19 has changed the way we live. We have learned to adapt and make the most of life. But we continue to wish for days when we can hug again, cheer on our favorite teams in person, and high-five our friends or even complete strangers.

That day is coming, with a shot of hope. Now, we have highly effective vaccines that will help stop the spread of COVID-19, protect our families and put an end to this pandemic as we know it.

But first, each of us has to do our part.

A COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you from the virus or from becoming seriously ill. It can stop the spread of the virus and grow the number of people in your community who are protected, making it harder to spread.

We want to help you be there for the ones that matter most. We want to share information with you. We want to help you find easy access to a vaccine, wherever it is most convenient to you.

It's normal to have questions about new treatments and vaccines. We want to help with that too.


ANSWERING COMMON QUESTIONS
ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES

The COVID-19 vaccine triggers a response from your immune system, creating antibodies and giving you protection should you be exposed to the real virus.

After vaccination, your body creates a harmless piece of protein that resembles part of COVID-19. Your immune system will recognize the new protein as something that should not be present and immediately begins to build an immune response, creating protection from future COVID-19 infection or severe illness.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires a single dose.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, with the first often referred to as the “primer” dose and the second the “booster” dose.

Doses of the Pfizer vaccine are given 21 days apart. Doses of the Moderna vaccine are given 28 days apart.

The FDA has temporarily paused administration of the Johnson & Johnson (Jannsen) COVID-19 vaccine. More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, but the FDA and CDC are reviewing six reported cases of a blood clot in individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The pause will take place while an additional safety analysis is conducted.
 
The City of Memphis and Mid-South states have paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in compliance with the recommendation.
 
Read the joint statement from the FDA and CDC for additional information. 

Both vaccines are given as two doses. The first dose is called a “priming dose” to start the immune response needed to prevent COVID-19 infection. The second dose is called a “booster” to help build the final layer of protection and increase the full potential of our immune system to fight off the virus.  For the Pfizer vaccine, the second dose is given 21 days after the initial vaccination, with the Moderna vaccine having 28 days in between the two shots.

The first “priming” dose might not provide the highest levels of immunity, so the second “booster” dose is needed to provide the best level of protection from COVID-19. Data from Pfizer shows the level of protection from the first dose is 52% but after the second dose, that level increases dramatically to 95%. For the Moderna vaccine, the first dose is estimated to provide up to 80% protection and 94% after the second dose. 

It is important to remember that elderly patients may not receive the same level of protection as seen in the clinical trials due to changes in how their immune system responds with increased age. Because of this, it is very important that patients receive both doses of the vaccination as recommended by the FDA. 

For optimal vaccine protection, it is important that you complete the vaccine series.You should receive the second dose as close to the designated timeframe as possible. However, there is a small range for the second dose. The FDA recommends a 4-day grace period of 4 days earlier than the recommended date for the second dose, which would be 17 days for the Pfizer vaccine and 24 days for the Moderna vaccine.  If a second dose is given after the desired due date, there is no need to restart the vaccination series.

All vaccines will be ordered through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC has worked with state, tribal, territorial and local jurisdictions across the country on the vaccination plan for their respective areas.

The CDC has also worked with private partners, such as chains and networks of independent pharmacies, and other federal agencies on plans to more widely distribute COVID-19 vaccines. 

In order to approve a vaccine for coronavirus, the United States Food and Drug Administration previously established that the vaccine must show more than 50% effectiveness at preventing coronavirus infection before it would be approved. Currently, all 3 of the available vaccines demonstrated efficacy that far exceeded this threshold for approval. 

With all 3 of the vaccines, immunity tends to build over several weeks after immunization.  The mRNA vaccines were found to be 94 and 95% effective against mild to moderate cases of coronavirus overall).  The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 72% effective in the United States at preventing moderate illness. 

It is important to remember that each vaccine was studied at a different time point during the pandemic and in different countries that were dealing with different variants and transmission rates. While the overall ability of each vaccine to reduce the risk of mild to moderate coronavirus infection may vary, all 3 vaccines were equally effective (100%) in clinical trials at preventing hospitalizations and death from coronavirus, which is the most important marker we have for assessing efficacy. 

No. None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines can make you contract the virus.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are what are known as mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines. mRNA vaccines do not contain any actual or live virus. Instead, they contain an inactive copy of part of the COVID-19 genetic code (the mRNA).

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. Viral vector vaccines, like this one, cannot cause a COVID-19 infection. Instead, it triggers a process in your body that causes it to build protection against a future infection of the virus.

No. Neither the mRNA nor viral vector vaccines alter or interact with your DNA in any way.

There are no preservatives of any type in the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.

After each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, whether it be Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer, you might experience certain symptoms, commonly referred to as side effects, that can occur after receiving an immunization. 

These symptoms are “reactogenic effects”. They are a sign that your body is building protection against the virus.

The most commonly reported reactogenic symptoms are:

Pain in the arm where you got the shot
Fatigue; your body feeling tired/run down
Headache
Body aches
Fever and/or chills

Learn more in our SIDE EFFECTS section.

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have already had COVID-19.

At this time, the CDC is recommending that anyone with known current COVID-19 infection should not get the second vaccine dose until the person has stopped having symptoms and they have been removed from quarantine. 

Current evidence suggests that it is uncommon for a person to become reinfected within the 90 days after the initial infection. Because of this, the FDA has recommended that people may consider delaying receipt of the second vaccine dose until near the end of this 90 day period, if they desire to do so. 

It is recommended that pregnant or lactating women discuss the vaccine with their provider.

Yes. Because the currently available COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA to build an immune response, they do not involve egg products in their manufacturing like some currently available vaccinations, like influenza, do. 

It will take several months before everyone can receive the vaccine, so it is important to continue infection control protocols.

Even after getting vaccinated for COVID-19, you should:

Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth
Practice social distancing
Wash your hands frequently

We won’t know how long immunity lasts until we have more data on how well it works. Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are actively researching and learning more about.

Right now, makers of the vaccine estimate this protection may last several months to years and hope to provide more evidence as they continue to study people enrolled in the trials. It is possible that we may need to receive an annual booster dose of the vaccine to maintain prolonged immunity, but we do not know this with certainty yet. 

The vaccine is a means of prevention, and monoclonal antibody infusions are a form of treatment.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is used in people who are at high risk for developing severe disease, but aren’t sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and don’t require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19. This type of treatment binds to the surface of the virus and prevents it from getting into a person’s cells.

Currently, more than 70,000 patients have received one of the vaccines in clinical trials and no long term effects have been reported. Researchers will continue to evaluate these patients for a long period of time and the FDA has committed to releasing information on any side effects that occur.

It is important to remember that out of all the vaccines approved by the FDA, a severe side effect has never developed more than two months after receiving a vaccine. This is one of the reasons the FDA required that patients enrolled in the trials were studied for two full months before the vaccines were evaluated for approval to administer to the general public.  

Vaccines are held to a very high standard of safety, since they're given to a very large number of people. So, although we can never rule out very rare side effects, we can rest assured that if this vaccine is approved by the FDA, it is safe enough for you to take.


THIS IS WHO
IS ELIGIBLE

Vaccine distribution is happening in phases. Because the vaccination process will happen over time, it is critically important that we all continue following infection prevention practices, such as consistently wearing a mask, frequently washing our hands, avoiding crowds, and staying home when we feel sick.

Vaccine distribution is happening in phases. Because the vaccination process will happen over time, it is critically important that we all continue following infection prevention practices, such as consistently wearing a mask, frequently washing our hands, avoiding crowds, and staying home when we feel sick.

In Shelby County, everyone ages 16 and older is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Individuals under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian in order to be vaccinated.  The parent or guardian will be required to show ID and complete and sign a consent form on-site for their child to be vaccinated. 

For information about vaccination sites and making an appointment in Shelby County, visit the City of Memphis' COVID-19 website.

In Mississippi, everyone ages 16 and older is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

Individuals ages 16 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine, and those 18 and over can receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, according to the Mississippi Department of Health.

Those who are ages 18 and older can be vaccinated at any of the state's drive-through sites. Those younger than 18 can make a drive-through appointment by calling 877-978-6453 or by setting up an appointment directly with their private healthcare provider.

For additional information about COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Mississippi — including vaccination sites — visit the Mississippi Department of Health website.

In Arkansas, the following groups are among those eligible to be vaccinated:

Arkansas residents ages 16 to 64 with health conditions that increase their risk for severe COVID-19

Arkansas residents ages 65 and older

Education workers

First responders

Healthcare workers

Residents in long-term health facilities

Residents living in high-risk settings, like group homes, student housing and those who are incarcerated

Essential workers in a number of fields

For the entire list and additional information about COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Arkansas — including vaccination sites — visit the Arkansas Department of Health website.

All vaccines will be ordered through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC has worked with state, tribal, territorial and local jurisdictions across the country on the vaccination plan for their respective areas. The CDC has also worked with private partners, such as chains and networks of independent pharmacies, and other federal agencies on plans to more widely distribute COVID-19 vaccines. For example, the CDC is working with specific pharmacies to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccination services for residents in long-term care settings.

Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, people are advised to get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they have already had COVID-19.

At this time, the CDC is recommending that anyone with known current COVID-19 infection should not get the vaccine until the person has stopped having symptoms and they have been removed from quarantine.

Current evidence suggests that it is uncommon for a person to become reinfected within the 90 days after the initial infection. Because of this, the FDA has recommended that people may consider delaying receipt of the vaccine until near the end of this 90 day period. 

At this time, the CDC is recommending that anyone with known current COVID-19 infection should not get the second vaccine dose until the person has stopped having symptoms and they have been removed from quarantine.  Current evidence suggests that it is uncommon for a person to become reinfected within the 90 days after the initial infection. Because of this, the FDA has recommended that people may consider delaying receipt of the second vaccine dose until near the end of this 90 day period, if they desire to do so. 

Yes. Because the currently available COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA to build an immune response, they do not involve egg products in their manufacturing like some currently available vaccinations, like influenza, do. 


SIDE EFFECTS &
WHAT TO EXPECT

After each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you might experience certain symptoms, commonly referred to as side effects, that can occur after receiving an immunization. These symptoms are “reactogenic effects”. They are a sign that your body is building protection against the virus.

The most commonly reported reactogenic symptoms are:

  • Pain in the arm where you got the shot
  • Fatigue; your body feeling tired/run down
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fever and/or chills

Reports of symptoms are higher after the second dose. If you have previously had the coronavirus, you may experience a higher rate of these symptoms after the first dose compared to someone who has not previously had the virus.

Each person’s reaction to the shot is different. Some people may experience all of the above-mentioned symptoms and may feel as though they have the flu or a severe cold. Others may not have any symptoms.

To help reduce pain or discomfort in the arm where you received the shot, you can:

Apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth on the injection site
Use or exercise your arm to help “work out” soreness or stiffness
To help reduce discomfort from fever, you can:

  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep your body hydrated
  • Dress lightly

Over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be used as a pain reliever or fever reducer, but are primarily recommended after you receive the vaccine and if you experience symptoms that cannot be managed without medications.

If you do have symptoms, they should go away within a couple days.

Because our body sees the protein that is created as a result of the mRNA vaccine as foreign, it builds an immune response that consumes a great deal of energy within our bodies. This may result in a person feeling tired/run down — or for their body to ache for a short period of time. 

No serious adverse side effects have been definitively associated with the COVID-19 vaccines.

While there were several individuals in the clinical trials who developed a mild, temporary inability to move facial muscles, patients on both sides — those who received the vaccine and those who received the placebo — reported this and the FDA has not concluded that the vaccination caused this to occur.   Other reports have emerged since the vaccine has been being administered nationwide, but at this time the FDA has again been unable to link any severe reactions directly to the vaccine.

There is a small risk of anaphylactic reaction, as with any vaccine. Thus far, the CDC has reported the rate of anaphylaxis among Americans immunized following the Pfizer vaccine is 0.001% and 0.0002% following the Moderna vaccine. 

If a person has had a previous severe, anaphylactic reaction to a vaccine in the past, they should discuss with their doctor about reviewing the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, severe allergies to medications that are not vaccines do not mean a person cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccination. There is also no latex included in the vaccine packaging, so people with latex allergies are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccines.

The CDC does recommend that people with a history of an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a vaccine or an injectable drug — or a person with a history of anaphylaxis to any substance — should be observed for 30 minutes after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some symptoms overlap and there is a possibility to contract COVID-19 before the vaccine takes effect. This may cause us to push for COVID-19 testing if symptoms are presented regardless of supposed cause.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Testing is now widely available, so if in doubt about any symptoms you may experience, we encourage testing.

Currently, more than 70,000 patients are being studied in clinical trials that began nearly six months ago and no long term effects have been reported. Researchers will continue to evaluate these patients for a long period of time and the FDA has committed to releasing information on any side effects that occur.

It is important to remember that out of all the vaccines approved by the FDA, a severe side effect has never developed more than two months after receiving a vaccine. This is one of the reasons the FDA required that patients enrolled in the trials were studied for two full months before the vaccines were evaluated for approval to administer to the general public.  

Vaccines are held to a very high standard of safety, since they're given to a very large number of people. So, although we can never rule out very rare side effects, we can rest assured that if this vaccine is approved by the FDA, it is safe enough for you to take.


HEAR FROM OUR EXPERTS

Hearing from our infectious disease physicians can give you a better understanding about the COVID-19 vaccines.

On January 28, we hosted a Your Health Live event on Facebook to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with the community. Pharmacists Shanise Patterson and Jasmine Jackson provided information about the vaccine and answered questions from community members.

On November 24, Dr. Shirin Mazumder, an infectious disease expert with MLH, conducted a media briefing answering many questions about the vaccines, including the differences between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine and any potential side effects of the vaccines.


FUNDING PARTNERS

The COVID-19 vaccine awareness and education campaign is made possible through investments by Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, in-kind contributions by local media partners, and philanthropic donations to the Methodist Healthcare Foundation.

The support of caring partners will help extend the length and reach of this important campaign to promote community understanding and adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine in Memphis and the Mid-South in order to reach herd immunity and end the pandemic.

To learn how you can support this community awareness campaign or other areas of need, please visit the Methodist Healthcare Foundation or call 901-478-0704

We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of these partners, that include:

Vaccine Awareness Funding Partner logos

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