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Three COVID-19 vaccines now available

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With some sixty million COVID-19 vaccines now administered in the U.S., three vaccination alternatives are now available throughout the country. The basic premise behind COVID vaccinations is to teach your body how to recognize and fight off the virus.

Around 12 percent of Mississippians have received one dose of either the two dose Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and eligibility has expanded beyond those over 65 years old and persons with underlying medical conditions to encompass public safety officials, child care providers, teachers and staff.

The three authorized vaccines in the U.S. are:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 95 percent, is suitable for persons 16 years or older and requires two injections 21 days apart.

  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 94.1 percent, is suitable for persons 18 years or older and requires two injections 28 days apart.

  • Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which has an overall efficacy rate of 72 percent in U.S. clinical trials, 85 percent against severe forms of COVID-19 and 100 percent against hospitalization and death, is suitable for persons at least 18 years old and requires only one dose.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA ( mRNA), while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses double stranded DNA in an adenovirus. They do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19, but cells receive instructions on how to make a harmless protein unique to the COVID-19 virus for which the body makes T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that fight off the virus if an infection occurs.

If you have had a serious allergic reaction or immediate reaction to any vaccine ingredient, including polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polysorbate, you should not get the vaccine. If you have a severe allergic reaction or an immediate allergic reaction -- hives, swelling, wheezing -- after the first dose, you should not get another injection even if the reaction was not severe. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to injectables in the past, you can still get the vaccine, but you need to be monitored for 30 minutes after getting the vaccine.

If you have an underlying medical condition, the CDC says you can get the vaccine as long as you have not had a reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or any of its ingredients. There is, however, very little information about the safety of the vaccine in people who have autoimmune disorders or a weakened immune system. Because there is no data on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant or breastfeeding women, they should consult with their healthcare providers about getting the vaccine.

If you have already had COVID-19, a vaccine may help prevent re-infection in the future. Because it is unknown how long immunity after getting COVID-19 lasts, the CDC is recommending vaccination 90 days after an initial diagnosis.

COVID-19 vaccines may cause some side effects similar to symptoms of the virus, but if you have been exposed to COVID-19 and have symptoms more than three days after being vaccinated – or if your symptoms persist for two or more days – you should quarantine and get tested. Possible reactions to the vaccinations, particularly following the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, are:

  • Swelling, pain, or redness at the injection site

  • Fatigue

  • Fever (remember, this is a sign that your immune system is working)

  • Headache

  • Muscle pain

  • Joint pain

  • Chills

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • General unwell feeling

  • Nausea and vomiting

There is nothing specific a person needs to do before taking the vaccine apart from reporting any previous serious allergic reactions, but Blanka Kaplan, MD, a specialist in adult and pediatric allergy and immunology at Northwell Health in Great Neck, NY, advises:

  • Continuing allergy medications before being vaccinated;

  • Not taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin before and two hours after vaccination (unless instructed otherwise by your physician);

  • Avoiding alcohol 24 hours after vaccination;

  • Refraining from strenuous exercise two hours before and two hours after vaccination;

  • Skipping the hot shower two hours before and two hours after vaccination, as it can cause allergic reactions in some people.

If you have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider.


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