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The Race to a Vaccine: An Update

By Jayden Neidell

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, companies such as Pfizer and Moderna have been tirelessly working on creating an effective COVID vaccine. After countless hours of research and development, healthcare professionals, teachers, and frontline workers are finally getting the vaccine they deserve. 

The two vaccines that are currently being administered throughout the country are the ones created by Pfizer and Moderna. Both of these companies have taken a new and more effective approach to vaccines, no longer putting a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies like traditional vaccines. Instead, they use mRNA, or messenger RNA. This new approach teaches our cells to make “spike proteins,” which are found on the surface of the virus that spreads COVID-19. This process is completely harmless and allows our bodies to trigger an immune response. This immune response produces antibodies and is what then prevents our bodies from getting infected if the real virus enters our body. 

These vaccines require two doses to reach their full effectiveness. You must get your second dose 21 days after the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 28 days after the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. It is recommended to get the second shot within four days of the due date to produce the best results. 

However, many people have been concerned about the unrealistic side effects of the vaccine. The side effects are very minimal and typically occur after the second shot. On the arm where the shot is injected, it is normal for there to be pain and swelling, but nothing too dramatic. Fevers, chills, tiredness, and headaches may also occur, but it will only last for one to three days at most. 

Each state is administering the vaccine in its own unique way and prioritizing different groups of people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued recommendations for who should get the vaccines first, but states have established their own criteria. The most prioritized health-care workers and long-term-care residents are first, followed by those over 65 or 75 years of age and people with high-risk conditions.

States have divided their populations into phases or tiers to properly distribute the vaccine. In New York State, currently eligible groups of people to get the vaccine include:

  • High-risk hospital workers
  • Residents and staff at nursing homes and other congregate-care facilities
  • Federally qualified health center employees
  • EMS workers, coroners, medical examiners, and certain funeral workers 
  • Urgent care providers
  • Those administering the COVID-19 vaccine
  • Outpatient/ambulatory workers
  • Frontline/high-risk public health workers
  • Senior citizens 
  • First responder and support staff
  • Police and investigators, public safety communications
  • In-person college instructors and public school teachers and workers
  • Those with certain comorbidities, or pre-existing conditions

Many more groups of people have been approved to get the vaccine in New York, including child-care providers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and individuals living or working in a homeless shelter. These eligible residents can contact pharmacies, hospitals, and local health departments to schedule their appointment to receive the vaccine.

Before getting your vaccination, make sure to see if the vaccination is recommended for you at the moment. If it is, do some research so you know what to expect when the time comes for your appointment. When you get the vaccine, it is important for both you and the healthcare worker to wear masks covering the nose and mouth. You will receive a vaccination card or printout that tells you the details of your vaccination, accompanied by a paper or an electronic version of a fact sheet that explains the benefits and risks of the shot you have received. After getting your vaccine, you may want to ask your healthcare provider about getting started with v-safe. V-safe is a free, smartphone app that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins after your vaccination. It also reminds you to get your second dose if you still need one.

As of January 27, 2021, 47,230,950 vaccines have been distributed and 24,652,634 vaccines have been administered. Each day, these numbers are increasing. More and more vaccines are being produced and more people are receiving them. These promising numbers can provide hope to many that normalcy is rapidly approaching. 

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