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What do I need to know about COVID-19 vaccines?

This article was updated on May 27, 2024

COVID-19 vaccines are vital tools in combating the pandemic. Their development has come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic in 2019 and vaccine manufacturers continually update their products as variants evolve. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid vaccines that are widely available:

Types of COVID-19 Vaccines

  1. mRNA Vaccines
    • Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and Moderna (Spikevax): These vaccines use messenger RNA to instruct cells to produce the spike protein found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, triggering an immune response.
    • Dosage: Typically administered in two doses a few weeks apart. Booster doses are recommended to maintain immunity.
  2. Viral Vector Vaccines
    • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen: This vaccine uses a modified adenovirus to deliver DNA encoding the spike protein into cells, which then produce the protein and elicit an immune response.
    • Dosage: Administered as a single dose, with a booster dose recommended.
  3. Protein Subunit Vaccines
    • Novavax: This vaccine contains harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that cause COVID-19, which stimulate an immune response without causing disease.
    • Dosage: Typically administered in two doses a few weeks apart.

Efficacy and Safety

  1. Efficacy
    • COVID-19 vaccines have shown high efficacy in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Efficacy may vary based on the variant of the virus.
    • Booster doses enhance and prolong protection, especially against emerging variants like Delta and Omicron​.
  2. Safety
    • COVID-19 vaccines undergo rigorous testing in clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. They continue to be monitored for adverse effects through various surveillance systems.
    • Common side effects include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. These are typically mild and resolve within a few days.
  3. Severe Side Effects
    • Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) are rare. Monitoring after vaccination helps manage such reactions promptly.
    • Reports of myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly in younger males following mRNA vaccination, are being investigated, but the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.

Booster Shots and Updated Vaccines

  1. Booster Shots
    • Boosters are recommended to enhance immunity, especially as immunity can wane over time and new variants emerge.
    • The timing and eligibility for boosters can depend on age, health status, and the type of initial vaccine received.
  2. Updated Vaccines
    • Vaccines are being updated to target newer variants more effectively, ensuring continued protection against severe outcomes.

Access and Availability

  1. Where to Get Vaccinated
    • Vaccines are available at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and public health centers. Many countries have established online platforms to locate vaccination sites.
    • Mobile clinics and community outreach programs help improve access, especially in underserved areas.
  2. Cost
    • COVID-19 vaccines are typically provided at no cost to the individual in many countries, funded by government programs.

Continued Precautions

  1. Masking and Distancing
    • Even after vaccination, it’s important to follow public health guidelines, including masking and social distancing, especially in areas of high transmission.
  2. Monitoring for Symptoms
    • Stay vigilant for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if you experience symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Reliable Sources

By staying informed about COVID-19 vaccines, you can make informed decisions to protect yourself and others from the virus.

*Here at Tayo we aim to offer the latest and best advice regarding Covid-19. The guidelines and suggestions listed below are based upon the CDC’s recommendations and other health care professionals. However, this advice may not suit each individual circumstance and are just meant as general guidelines. We encourage you to consult with your healthcare provider to get the answers that best suit your individual needs. 

This article was written and edited by the Tayo editorial desk and has been reviewed by an independent panel of subject matter experts.

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