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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Coronavirus 2019 Vaccine)

What Is COVID?

COVID (Coronavirus disease 2019) is an infection of the airways, lungs, and other systems of the body. It causes a minor cold-like illness in most. Others may have severe breathing problems or illness.

What Is the COVID Vaccine?

COVID vaccines train the body to see and attack the virus that causes COVID as soon as possible. A quick reaction to a virus can prevent an infection in most. Some may still get sick but will be protected from severe illness that requires hospital care and mechanical ventilation. The vaccines also appear to prevent death from COVID.

The vaccines do not contain the COVID virus itself. It may have small pieces of the virus or a substance that instructs the body to make certain proteins. The body attacks these pieces and proteins and creates a memory. The body is then better able to recognize and attack important parts of the COVID 19 viruses. A fast response to a COVID virus can decrease the chance of serious illness.

The vaccines may be given in 2 doses several weeks apart or as a single dose. It is not yet clear how long this protection will last. Time and more research will help to better understand this.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

The vaccine has been effective for both healthy people and those with chronic health issues. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other medical groups have approved vaccine for people 16 years or older. Younger children may be approved for some of the vaccines soon.

Experts believe the vaccine is safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. More research will help to confirm safety. Anyone who is unsure of risks and benefits of the vaccine may want to talk to their healthcare team.

Listen for vaccine plans from your local health leaders. Get the vaccine as soon as you are eligible. The more people that are vaccinated, the better the control of COVID will be in the community.

What Are the Risks Associated with the COVID Vaccine?

The vaccines are only approved for widespread use once they have completed intense review. Vaccines were tested in trials. The benefits and side effects were reported. Data from the trials were fully reviewed by the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

The pandemic has created an urgent need for these vaccines. Some steps, like shipping, were sped up to help meet this need. Safety and approval steps were not skipped or rushed.

Most people who get the vaccine will not have problems. The most common problems are a sore arm, headache, and fever. The symptoms often pass in a few hours to a few days.

  • Moving your arm and a cool compress can reduce arm discomfort.
  • Rest, drinking water, and wearing cool clothes can help if you have a fever.

These reactions are not caused by a COVID infection. They are caused by the immune system reacting as it should.

A few people have had an allergic reaction to something in the vaccine. Everyone who had a reaction was treated and fully recovered. The reaction would happen soon after the shot was given. Everyone who has a COVID vaccine is observed for about 15 minutes. Medical personnel are available to give treatment. It is a very rare reaction.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

The goal is for everyone to be able to get a COVID vaccine. Research is being done on vaccines for younger children. Tell the vaccine clinic if you:

  • Have had any allergic reactions to vaccines in the past
  • Are sick—you may need to wait until you feel better

What Other Ways Can I Protect Myself and Others from COVID?

To help protect yourself, your family, and others:

  • Wear a mask when you are not home.
  • Wash your hands often. Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds each time. Use alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water is not available.
  • Keep a safe distance (about 6 feet) from people that you do not live with.
  • Stay aware of community news. Follow any recommended steps. This may include periods of time when you are asked to stay at home and avoid large groups. It can help to slow the spread of illness in the community.

It will take about 2 weeks after the final shot to develop full immunity. Once you have been fully vaccinated you may be able to gather in small groups without masks or distancing. It is still best to avoid large groups.

Widespread use of the vaccine will help to control the virus in the community. This will allow us to return to more normal habits.

RESOURCES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  https://www.cdc.gov/COVID19 

World Health Organization  https://www.who.int/ 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca 

Public Health Agency of Canada  http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca 

References

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/covid-19-novel-coronavirus. Accessed April 14, 2021.

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html. Accessed April 14, 2021.

Making a strong recommendation for COVID-19 vaccination. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/hcp/engaging-patients.html . Accessed April 14, 2021.

Possible side effects from vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm . Accessed April 14, 2021.

Understanding mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html. Accessed April 14, 2021.

What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) factsheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf. Accessed April 14, 2021.

Wiersinga WJ, Rhodes A, et al. Pathophysiology, Transmission, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): A Review. JAMA. 2020 Jul 10 early online December 2020.

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