Make a Plan to Get Vaccinated: Part One

It seems that there are equal parts excitement and apprehension about the COVID vaccine. All of us are ready to get back to normal and the only way to make that happen is by eradicating this virus. But there are also a lot of questions about it.

Our three-part series of informational articles about the vaccine will answer many of the questions you might have. Feel free to forward, repost and share these so that we can get accurate, scientific information into the hands of our neighbors, rather than the misinformation that is so rampant.

Remember, you can register for vaccine appointment notifications through our vaccine clinic on our website.

This first article is entitled Learn the Facts. The following content relates to both the Pfizer as well as the Moderna vaccine.

Q.  Can I get COVID from the vaccine?
A.   No. There is absolutely none of the virus in the vaccine. You cannot get COVID by being vaccinated. Many people mistakenly think that the COVID vaccine contains COVID virus and can thus give you the disease. That is not true. There is no virus in it, alive or deactivated. The vaccine cannot give you COVID.

Q.  Can I trust a vaccine that has been developed at “Warp Speed?”
A.   In this case, the answer is “Yes.” The vaccine came to market so quickly because U.S. federal funding was provided to expedite development. There was no shortcut in the clinical trials, which involved more than 50,000 people.

Operation Warp Speed ensured that that funding was available to speed up development. The development process was shortened, but the testing process was not. These drugs underwent the same clinical trials that any other drug would undergo. Both of these vaccines were developed in the U.S. and have undergone U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scrutiny, the most rigorous vaccine approval process on the planet.

The mRNA delivery method is also not new. Research on mRNA technology began in the early 1990s with testing in animals and has been studied for use in vaccines, including on humans, over the last ten years.

Q.  What are the potential side effects?
A.   More than 90% of trial participants had no side effects. The most common side effects experienced by the remaining 10% are similar to those of other vaccines: pain/redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle/joint aches and low-grade fever. All of these symptoms can be treated with Tylenol and ibuprofen, and most last less than 24 hours.

Any medicine you take has potential side effects. Here are the most common potential side effects of the vaccine that have been noted in the more than 50,000 people who have received it during clinical trials:

  • You might notice nothing. That’s what 90% of trial participants experienced.
  • You might develop a red, sore spot on your arm for a few days. You can get one of these with a flu shot.
  • You might be a little tired or have a low-grade fever for a couple days as your body works to create antibodies that fight the new protein. Again, this is a common, temporary, non-fatal response to many medicines.
  • In rare cases, you might have an allergic reaction. That’s why you will be asked to stay for a few moments after your vaccine is administered, to ensure you don’t have any allergic reaction.

Q.  Why should I get the vaccine?
A.   There are three reasons to get the vaccine: to protect yourself, to protect others, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

You need to think about risk and reward when you consider the vaccine. The risk for most people from the vaccine is a bit of mild discomfort for 24 hours or less. (See the question on side effects.) What is the reward?

  • You will be protected from the virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
  • You will not spend weeks or months of your life fighting COVID.
  • You, along with everyone else, will be able to go back to work, to school, and to the rest of life, safely.
  • You will not be isolated from your friends and family.
  • You will not have permanent damage to your respiratory system or your senses of taste and smell.
  • You will prevent reinfection. Early evidence suggests that natural immunity might not last long and you can get re-infected. This is a safer way to build immunity with fewer health risks.

Q.  What are the ingredients in the vaccine?
A.   Both vaccines contain forms of sugar, fat and salt, along with the mRNA. That’s all.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use the same technology but contain slightly different mRNAs and different ingredients used to protect the mRNA, maintain the pH and stabilize the solution. They are essentially equally effective and have similar side effects.  You can find the specific list of ingredients on this website.

Q.  Why can’t children be vaccinated?
A.   Clinical trials in children under age 16 have not yet been conducted. It would not be safe to administer the vaccine to children without testing it in clinical trials first.

COVID-19 vaccine trials for children are just beginning. Pfizer expanded its vaccine testing to children ages 12 and older in late October; however, Moderna has not yet set a date when it will begin testing its product in children. It remains unclear when a vaccine will be approved for children under 16 but the goal is to have one ready before the 2021 school year.

Q.   Will I still need to wear a mask and take precautions after I get the vaccine?
A.   Yes. Health authorities will inform us when it is safe to change our safety protocols.

Remember that these are two-part vaccines. You are not fully immunized until you have received the second one. In addition, the vaccines are almost 95% effective. This means there is a small chance you could still contract the virus, although you are most likely to have a mild to asymptomatic case. But as we have all learned, asymptomatic people can still spread the virus. That is why it is important to continue taking precautions until we are advised otherwise by the health authorities.

Q.   What is messenger RNA (mRNA)?
A.   mRNA is a set of instructions that teaches our bodies how to do something at the cellular level.

The mRNA found in the vaccines teaches our bodies how to make the red protein spike we’ve all seen a million times on COVID photos. It’s not teaching our cells to make the virus; it’s giving instructions to create a protein. But our bodies do recognize that the protein is not supposed to be there, so we start producing antibodies to get rid of it. That’s how we develop immunity. If those proteins reappear through exposure to COVID, our bodies know how to go back into action and protect against them.

A common misperception is that we are somehow changing our DNA with these vaccines. That is not true. The instructions in the mRNA do not become part of our genetic code. We’re simply teaching the body to create immunity before it is needed.

Good to know:

  • You can register online to receive email or text notifications when you are eligible for the vaccination at NOCHS’ Covid-19 vaccine clinic.
  • If you’re looking for information to help someone who may have limited or no internet access, or needs translation services, please call 2-1-1. They are ready to assist with providing vaccine information and registration, if available.
  • Visit for the latest, local information on COVID-19 vaccine availability. Click here for information about the state’s prioritization guidelines.
  • Contact your primary care physician if you have questions about the vaccine. He or she can talk through your concerns and provide guidance.
  • You can find answers to many general questions at these reputable sites: Ottawa County Health Department, State of MichiganVaccinate West Michigan and the CDC.
  • Consider enrolling in V-Safe after your vaccination to contribute data about your vaccine response to the body of knowledge the CDC is collecting.
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