By Lori Cannon, RN
At the time I write this, there are two vaccines available to protect against COVID-19, with potential others on the way. Many people are understandably hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. One might be concerned about what they see as a new or untried technology, worried about side effects, or fearing long-term problems. It’s important to be thoughtful about what you put in your body, and to seek out reputable sources of information to help you make your decision.
We thought it might be helpful to share a little more information about how the COVID-19 vaccine works. Vaccines work by helping you to create antibodies in your body to fight a certain disease without having to actually get the disease. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 both use messenger RNA (mRNA) to accomplish this. This technology has been studied for years and years; it is not a new process. Because the unique DNA structure of the COVID-19 virus was mapped early in the pandemic, the developers of the vaccine were able to create the exact mRNA needed to instruct your immune system to build the antibodies to fight off COVID-19. This is why the vaccine was able to be developed so quickly: the genome for the virus was mapped and the information was plugged into existing technology. These vaccines do not contain any component of the COVID-19 virus and you cannot get COVID-19 from them.
That said, you may have heard that some people get sick after getting the vaccine. It is normal for some people to have some side effects from a vaccine. Low-grade fever, aches and malaise, and fatigue can all occur as your immune system responds and gets to work, and this usually doesn’t last more than a day or two. Far from being a sign of a problem, these types of symptoms indicate that your immune system is doing what it’s supposed to do. They are also far less severe than the symptoms that you could experience if you actually became ill with COVID-19.
Whenever we have a new medication or vaccine, it is natural to worry about long-term effects, and the truth is that we can’t say there won’t be any long-term side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines. It is too new to know one way or the other. However, what we do know is that COVID-19 is definitely causing long-term effects. Some who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered from the initial infection still have lasting symptoms and are often referred to as “long-haulers”. Many of these people, including young previously healthy people, have been diagnosed with irreversible damage to organs and systems in their bodies, including their heart, lungs, and nerves, caused by the COVID-19 virus. Those involved in the clinical trials of the vaccines did not show any side effects that were comparable to this.
If you’re still hesitant or have questions about the vaccine, that’s okay! To make sure you’re getting reliable and scientifically sound information, check out the CDC website or talk to your provider.
Lori Cannon is a registered nurse and care coordinator manager at NorthLakes Community Clinic. Right now, NLCC is an approved vaccinator but given the limited supply of vaccine in Wisconsin, we are only vaccinating patients with established primary medical care with us. We’re also following the state’s tiered approach and reaching out to patients as we have vaccine available. If you are a patient and would like to be added to a waiting list, please feel free to give us a call.