Louisiana (WAFB) - A new chapter in the saga of the COVID-19 pandemic is focused on hope being administered in the form of a vaccine.
Although the vaccine is a big step forward, Governor John Bel Edwards warns that the pandemic is still very much on going.
“This is the beginning of the end,” he said during a press conference. “We are not at the end yet, but it is such a blessing to have vaccine in the state of Louisiana...The vaccine by itself is not going to end the pandemic, we have to have vaccinations.”
The Department of Health is also not going to mandate that you take a vaccine, when one becomes widely available.
According to Governor John Bel Edwards, between 125,000 and 135,000 frontline healthcare personnel will be the first people in the state to receive the vaccine. Doctors, nurses, as well as hospital food service workers and custodial staff, will be included in that group.
Edwards says the state hopes to vaccinate 160,000 people in the first priority group comprised of people who work in hospitals and nursing homes, by the end of December. There are around 200,000 to 215,000 people who make up that first group.
To understand how COVID-19 vaccines work, it helps to first look at how our bodies fight illness. When germs, such as the virus that causes COVID-19, invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. This invasion, called an infection, is what causes illness. Our immune system uses several tools to fight infection. Blood contains red cells, which carry oxygen to tissues and organs, and white or immune cells, which fight infection. Different types of white blood cells fight infection in different ways:
- Macrophages are white blood cells that swallow up and digest germs and dead or dying cells. The macrophages leave behind parts of the invading germs called antigens. The body identifies antigens as dangerous and stimulates antibodies to attack them.
- B-lymphocytes are defensive white blood cells. They produce antibodies that attack the pieces of the virus left behind by the macrophages.
- T-lymphocytes are another type of defensive white blood cell. They attack cells in the body that have already been infected.
The first time a person is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it can take several days or weeks for their body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to get over the infection. After the infection, the person’s immune system remembers what it learned about how to protect the body against that disease.
The body keeps a few T-lymphocytes, called memory cells, that go into action quickly if the body encounters the same virus again. When the familiar antigens are detected, B-lymphocytes produce antibodies to attack them. Experts are still learning how long these memory cells protect a person against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Currently, there are three main types of COVID-19 vaccines that are or soon will be undergoing large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials in the United States. Below is a description of how each type of vaccine prompts our bodies to recognize and protect us from the virus that causes COVID-19. None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19.
- mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
- Protein subunit vaccines include harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that cause COVID-19 instead of the entire germ. Once vaccinated, our immune system recognizes that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins making T-lymphocytes and antibodies. If we are ever infected in the future, memory cells will recognize and fight the virus.
- Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a live virus—a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19—that has genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted in it (this is called a viral vector). Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.
Q: When did the FDA approve the vaccine?
A: It was approved for emergency use on December 11, 2020. Technically, this vaccine is only approved for emergency use. Roughly 20,000 people received the vaccination during clinical trials. This vaccine has not undergone the same type of review as an FDA-approved or cleared product. The FDA can make the vaccine available, however, because the scientific evidence available shows that the product is effective and that the potential benefit of the product outweighs the known and potential risks.
Q: Is there an age restriction?
A: Yes. The vaccine is only approved for individuals ages 16 and over.
Q: How does it work?
A: This vaccine is administered as an injection into the muscle and requires two doses, three weeks apart. When you get your first dose, you will get a vaccination card to show you when to return for your second dose. You will need to bring your card when you return for your second dose.
Q: Will the vaccine give me COVID-19?
A: No, the vaccine does not contain SARS-CoV-2 and cannot give you COVID-19.
Q: What are the possible side effects?
A: According to the FDA, the most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. The side effects could last for several days. More people reported side effects with the second dose than the first dose. There is a remote chance the vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction, which would typically occur within a few minutes to one hour after the injection.
Q: What are the signs of a severe allergic reaction?
A: Difficulty breathing, swelling of your face and throat, a fast heartbeat, a bad rash all over your body, and dizziness and weakness.
Q: Can a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding get the vaccine?
A: You should discuss this with your regular healthcare provider.
Q: Where will my vaccination information be recorded?
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your information could be included in your state/local jurisdiction’s Immunization Information System (IIS) or other designated system. This will ensure you receive the same vaccine when you return for the second dose. For more information about IIS, CLICK HERE.
The FDA approved emergency use of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
Q. What are the restrictions?
A. This vaccine is only approved for those 18 years or older. If you have any allergies or medical conditions, you should let your medical provider know.
Q. How is this vaccine given?
A. It is administered in a series of 2 doses given 1 month apart. If you receive one dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, you should get a second dose of the same vaccine.
Q. How long does the vaccine last?
A. It is unknown how long this vaccine will be effective.
Q. What are the risks?
A. Side effects that have been reported with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine include:
- Injection site reactions: pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, swelling (hardness), and redness
- General side effects: fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever
There is a remote chance that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine could cause a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction would usually occur within a few minutes to one hour after getting a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. For this reason, your vaccination provider may ask you to stay at the place where you received your vaccine for monitoring after vaccination. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of your face and throat
- A fast heartbeat
- A bad rash all over your body
- Dizziness and weakness
These may not be all the possible side effects of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. Serious and unexpected side effects may occur. The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is still being studied in clinical trials.
Q. What is the difference between the Moderna and Pfizer Vaccine?
A. There are few differences between the two. Both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. This essentially teaches cells to make proteins that prompt an immune response. Both vaccines have been proven to be over 90 percent effective. The biggest difference comes on the distribution side. The Pfizer vaccine needs a special freezer to keep it at a minus 94 degrees. The Moderna vaccine can be kept in a regular freezer at minus 4 degrees. Additionally, the vaccine is only approved for 18 and over for Moderna, but is approved for 16 and over for Pfizer. And although both require two-doses, the Pfizer shots are 21 days apart where the Moderna are 28-days apart.
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