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COVID-19 vaccine: Facts about the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, who is eligible, what to expect, and more
General Wellness

COVID-19 vaccine: Facts about the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, who is eligible, what to expect, and more

By Your Health staff
Posted: April 22, 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

No. This is an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine. mRNA vaccines do not contain any actual or live virus. That means recipients don’t actually develop the infection like they would with a live virus. Instead, the mRNA is a genetic code. Once the vaccine is injected into someone’s arm, their cells will translate the genetic code to make the viral protein directly in the body. This gives the immune system a preview of what the real virus looks like without causing an infection, and the immune system develops antibodies that are helpful to attack the virus if a person is exposed to COVID-19 at a later date.

No. There is no thimerosal – or any other preservative – in the mRNA vaccines

The Pfizer vaccine is given in a two-dose series that is spaced apart by 21 days. The Moderna vaccine is given in a two-dose series that is spaced apart by 28 days. The rationale behind multiple doses is that the first dose is given to “prime” the immune system and generate an initial immune response. This does not provide the best levels of immunity overall, but prepares the body to generate a much higher immune response when a second dose is given. The second dose is required to provide the best level of protection from COVID-19.

Recent evidence has shown that many immunocompromised patients may not achieve the needed levels of immunity to prevent severe infection with the two-dose regimen. For immunocompromised patients, a third dose (commonly referred to as a “booster”) is needed 4 weeks after the second dose to ensure the highest levels of protection. Currently, the third dose is only approved for the Pfizer vaccine. Further recommendations for third doses for non-immunocompromised individuals and in those who originally received a Moderna vaccine are expected soon from the FDA.

Data released by Pfizer and Moderna shows the protection from the vaccine starts almost immediately after the first shot. But the level of protection increases to the highest levels after the second shot. In immunocompromised individuals, a third dose has been found to result in much higher levels of protection. For individuals to be considered “fully vaccinated”, they must have received the number of doses recommended (two for most individuals and three for immunocompromised patients).

You do not need to restart the series if there are delays between doses. You should receive the doses as close to the designated timeframe as possible. For optimal vaccine protection, it is important that you complete the vaccine series.

Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are actively researching and learning more about. Right now, research suggests that patients may be protected for up to one year, or longer, after the full vaccine series is completed.

The vaccine includes a copy of the viral protein that allow COVID-19 to enter human cells. Because the vaccine presents the body with a preview of this protein, thethe immune system is able to develop antibodies that can reduce the ability of the virus to enter your cells and cause severe disease.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is used in people who are at high risk for developing severe disease, but aren’t 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.

Yes, if you already had COVID you are eligible to be vaccinated, 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 been sick with COVID-19 before. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long, as evidenced by antibody test results. Current evidence suggests that individuals who have previously been infected with COVID-19 AND receiving the vaccine have the highest level of protection from reinfection. There is no specific wait time between a COVID infection and a vaccine dose, we just ask that you wait until you are no longer contagious before venturing out to get the vaccine.

Yes. Unlike conventional vaccines – which are grown in chicken eggs, then inactivated and processed to be made into vaccines – the Pfizer and Moderna COVID- 19 vaccines both use mRNA technology, which does not involve eggs in any way. mRNA vaccines are produced using a new technology that does not require scientists to use live cells in the lab. Instead, they contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T- lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future (CDC 2020).

Common side effects from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are similar to the flu vaccine – headaches, fatigue and muscle pain at the sight of injection. These reactions are very common after vaccination and are known as “immunogenic reactions.” The degree of these reactions varies between individuals based upon the immune system response to the vaccine. Some individuals may experience these effects for only a few hours, and in others they may last a few days.

The FDA has reported that some cases of heart inflammation have occurred after receipt of an mRNA vaccine. These cases have been reported as mild in nature and tend to occur in younger males, most commonly within a few days of receiving the second dose of either mRNA vaccine. Most patients who develop this mild heart inflammation have responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly. Patients can usually return to their normal daily activities after their symptoms improve. More information will be shared as it becomes available.

Individuals enrolled in the original clinical trials for the mRNA vaccines have now received their doses more than a year ago. No long-term adverse effects from the mRNA vaccines have been reported. In general, vaccines are held to a very high standard of safety, since they're given to people who are otherwise healthy. In more than 50 years of vaccine approval by the FDA, no adverse effects that occurred more than 2 months after receiving a vaccine have been identified.

Although we can never rule out very rare side effects, we can rest assured that if this vaccine is approved by the FDA, it's safe enough for you to take.

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.

CDC has released new data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy and is recommending all people 12 years of age and older get vaccinated against COVID-19. Currently, ACOG (American Academy of Gynecologists) recommends that all pregnant women or all women trying to get pregnant receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Clinicians have seen an increase in the number of pregnant patients infected with COVID-19 in 2021’ and the CDC currently classifies pregnancy as a high-risk criteria for developing severe disease. If you still have a concern, you can discuss with your personal physician. But the evidence is clear and the experts are unequivocal: pregnant woman should get vaccinated to protect both themselves and their babies.

No. The CDC still recommends masking in certain situations in order to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others. Immunocompromised individuals may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended, including wearing a well-fitted mask. Because our areas continues to report a high number of COVID-19 cases, we should consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. In addition, we should all follow mask mandates when they are in place.

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

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. You can watch that briefing on MOLLI: https://mlh.gomolli.org/articles/learn-more-about-the-covid-19-vaccine-monoclonal-antibody-therapy

Yes, both mRNA vaccines included people previously infected with COVID in their clinical trials. Additionally, large scale data from use of the vaccines during worldwide Emergency Use Authorization has shown efficacy and safety in those with previous COVID-19 infection. Reports have shown that individuals with previous COVID-19 infection may report a higher amount of immunogenic effects after all doses of the vaccines when compared to those who have not previously been infected.

With the Delta variant, we know that the overall effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines against ANY infection is slightly reduced when compared to the original clinical trials. However, protection against severe disease and death remains high in non-immunocompromised individuals. Those who are non-immunocompromised and develop a breakthrough infection should expect only mild symptoms and for those symptoms to be much shorter in nature than if they were unvaccinated. Research also shows that vaccinated individuals who develop a breakthrough infection are able to spread the virus for a much shorter period of time than those who are unvaccinated. Finally, vaccination also has been shown to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing long-term effects from COVID-19, such as chronic fatigue, mental fogginess, blood clots, or trouble breathing.

Our EAP is always available to help Associates with any anxiety you may be feeling about any topic. To speak with an EAP counselor you can call: 901-683-5658 or 800-880-5658. Or you can visit this link on MOLLI: https://mlh.gomolli.org/rd-about-mlh/newsroom/newsletters/eap-well-informed/index.dot


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.

In Shelby County:

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

In Mississippi:

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

In Arkansas:

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. 



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 have been studied in clinical trials that began in early 2020. No long-term effects have been reported and these patients will be followed for a total of 2 years 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 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.


EN ESPAÑOL

Es normal tener preguntas sobre los nuevos tratamientos y vacunas. Es normal que circulen mitos y falsedades cuando aparece algo nuevo.

Queremos informarte, que conozcas los hechos y ayudarte a tomar la decisión de protegerte a ti y a tu familia con la vacuna COVID-19. Ahora tenemos vacunas muy eficaces que ayudarán a detener la propagación de la COVID-19.

Pero, la responsabilidad es nuestra, como comunidad, para proteger a nuestros seres queridos y hacer nuestra parte para ayudar a poner fin a esta pandemia.

Para obtener respuestas a las preguntas frecuentes en español, lea CONOCE LOS HECHOS: VACUNAS COVID-19.


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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