Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Let’s Get Vaccinated!

As we rush to vaccinate as many people we can, the COVID-19 positivity rates are increasing worldwide. France has entered a third national lockdown in an attempt to save lives and curb the COVID-19 virus. Italy has now made vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers forcing them into unpaid leave if they do not comply.

Here in the United States there has been mistrust and anxiety by many when it comes to vaccination. People are concerned regarding side effects and long term effects that we may not know of. Health care is all about managing risks. The upsides of the vaccinations far outweigh the risks. If there is a chance of not getting sick enough to get hospitalized or die, why wouldn’t we take it?

The United States currently has 3 vaccines that have been approved to use.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine currently is approved for those aged 16 and over. It is a mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccine. It does not have a real virus, instead, it contains a molecule that instructs cells on how to make a protein. In this case, the cells make a spike protein which is found on the outside of the COVID-19 virus. The immune system then makes antibodies to fight anything with this spike protein. In this way, your body is equipped to fight off the virus if it is contracted. A second dose is required to reinforce this protection in about 3 weeks. Efficacy in the elderly is 94%. Clinical trials have deduced that the vaccine is efficacious against symptomatic disease at about 95% and against severe disease at about 100%. Some of the side effects from the vaccine include flu-like symptoms, chills, weakness, and fatigue which usually subside within 72 hours.

Moderna COVID-19 (mRNA-1273) vaccine

The Moderna vaccine is currently approved for those aged 18 and over, is a mRNA vaccine, and requires a second shot at 4 weeks. It’s efficacy in the elderly is at 86% and against symptomatic disease about 94% and is also 100% against severe disease. Neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines used fetal cell lines during the development or production phases.

Johnson & Johnson Single-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine

The Johnson and Johnson has been approved for those aged 18 and over. This one shot vaccine is a viral vector. In this vaccine, a carrier virus has a coronavirus spike protein added to it which then delivers it to your body. Your cells will take the spike protein activating the immune system to create antibodies. This has been shown to have an efficacy of about 42% in the elderly but it too is 100% efficacious against severe disease.

So which one is better? Which one should I take? All three of the vaccines have 100% protection against severe disease and hospitalization. The answer is that you should take any of the three that are available to you.

We all have to do our part to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

Lets get vaccinated!