The Vaccine

Max Lindenbaum, Journalist

I, like many others, am very much ready to get back to my pre-COVID lifestyle. Now that we have a vaccine, we may be able to get back to that lifestyle. How long will it take to get there?  That is what we are here to find out.

At the moment there are two different vaccines:

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine: Efficacy rate of 95%, FDA approved for people age 16 and up, and requires 2 doses 21 days apart.

Moderna Vaccine: Efficacy rate of 94.1%, FDA approved for people age 18 and up, and requires 2 doses 28 days apart.

Both vaccines use a messenger RNA (mRNA) that instructs the cells to make a harmless version of the same S protein that makes up the COVID’s spiky structure on their surface. Your cells will begin to display that harmless protein on their surfaces after vaccination. Your immune system will then recognize that the protein does not belong and will begin building an immune response and making antibodies to protect you from the real thing. 

Can a COVID-19 vaccine give you COVID? No, unlike the flu vaccine, the vaccine is not injecting a small amount of virus into your body, rather a ribonucleic acid (RNA) that effectively teaches your body how to fight the virus and build antibodies in the process. However, keep in mind that it takes a few weeks for your body to build immunity post vaccination, so it is possible that you could become infected if you were exposed just before or after vaccination.

Can a vaccine protect against the different variants? While there is limited research, the current answer is yes, but, both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are looking into extra booster shots to help protect against the especially dangerous variants such as the U.K. and South Africa variants.

Potential side effects of a vaccine include: 

  • Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling sick
  • Swollen lymph nodes

While some of these may act as a deterrent, pretty much everything on this list is on the flu shot side effects list as well . However, if the side effects last more than 3 days then you may have been exposed to the virus prior to being vaccinated and should immediately self-isolate and get tested.

Can I return to my pre-COVID lifestyle after I have been vaccinated and am I safe from the virus? Yes and no, despite what you think, you are not immune, merely protected. It is always possible to still get the virus, which is why vaccinated or not you still need to:

  • Avoid close contact.
  • Wear cloth face coverings over your mouth and nose in public places.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Stay home if you are or think you are sick.

How many people need to get vaccinated for herd immunity and how long will it take? Originally the number was thought to be between 60-70%, but more recent statements from Dr. Anthony Fauci suggests the number is closer to 90% before we can return to normal. However, 40-50% of the American population vaccinated will have a huge effect on the dynamic of the virus. According to CNN, at the current rate, every adult in the U.S. could be fully vaccinated by the summer of 2022, but what does that mean? That means we could have herd immunity  in the summer of 2022, but if we up our 913,000 doses per day to 1 million that could change to spring of 22’, and lastly if if we can up that further to 1.3 million doses per day, we could have herd immunity by the end of this year. While that sounds like a long time, it is important to keep in mind that doses are being given and produced at an increasing rate every day. Finally, while this coming summer may not be the normal we are used to, we may start to see those pearly whites shining behind that mask.