Breaking down what’s inside the COVID-19 vaccines

Breaking down what’s inside the COVID-19 vaccines
COVID-19 vaccine. (Source: Pima County Health)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WHSV) — The COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to millions across the country and more than 320,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccination in the state of Virginia.

The two vaccines that are currently most available are the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Both use mRNA technology to protect people from the virus. Both also have around a 95 percent effectiveness rate at preventing infection, according to the CDC.

What’s inside?

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both considered mRNA vaccines, meaning they teach our cells how to make a protein.

“That triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies,” the CDC explains on their website.

Dr. William Petri is a professor of infectious disease at the University of Virginia. Dr. Petri said the vaccine is not

“All that needed to be done was to make the RNA molecule, which you can make right in the lab. It doesn’t involve a live virus, doesn’t involve DNA. There is no way this vaccine would ever affect the DNA in your human genome. That’s sped what usually can take ten years,” Dr. Petri explained.

Dr. Petri said the science behind mRNA has been in the works for about the past ten years.

“If this pandemic had happened a year earlier, we would be in a much worse place than we are today,” Dr. Petri added. “The science is very opportunistic that it matured right at the time we needed it so desperately. I think we are going to see more and more vaccines that are mRNA vaccines because they are so safe and so effective.”

What about the long term affects?

Thousands of people received the vaccines during clinical trials earlier in the pandemic. Dr. Petri said scientists then waited another two months to watch for any side effects.

“The surveillance for side effects has not stopped. Everyone who has been vaccinated, including me, you get a web link to the CDC. I get an email message from the CDC every day where I fill out a little online questionnaire about if I have had any side effects. If I have a headache, fever, or muscle aches or something, and so that vaccine adverse effect surveillance is going on. That’s really important because it was 30,000 people who got the vaccine, now we are up to millions of people who got the vaccine,” Dr. Petri explained.

How does the vaccine work?

Dr. Petri said the vaccine is taking the mRNA for the spike-like protein of the virus.

“You don’t get the virus and there is no way you could ever get an infection from it, but your body makes this one protein from the virus and allows your immune system to recognize it and make antibodies. Those antibodies prevent the virus from ever being able to get inside a cell. It really stops it very early as part of the infection,” Dr. Petri added.

The CDC said there are certain symptoms that may arise that are normal with any vaccine.

“Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity,” the CDC explained on their website.

The following symptoms were also reported by the Food and Drug Administration for the Pfizer vaccine: pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever.

The following symptoms were also reported by the Food and Drug Administration for the Moderna vaccine: pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting, and fever.

“Of note, more people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose, so it is important for vaccination providers and recipients to expect that there may be some side effects after either dose, but even more so after the second dose,” the FDA explained.

Read more about what symptoms are to be expected with any vaccine by clicking here.

More about the vaccine and how to get vaccinated:

The Central Shenandoah Health District moved into phase 1B earlier this week, making it possible for all over the age of 65 to begin making vaccination appointments.

You can find more research on the vaccine by clicking here.

You can find more information about scheduling your vaccine appointment by clicking here.

Copyright 2021 WHSV. All rights reserved.