The Importance of COVID Vaccines
The Importance of Vaccines
Vaccines have always been important in preventing disease; however, they are now more important than ever. The importance of vaccines is something that often goes overlooked. Vaccines are a type of preventative medicine—they are used in order to prevent a disease from occurring, rather than treating the disease after it occurs. Infectious diseases that were common in the United States are polio, measles, diphtheria, rubella, mumps, tetanus, and more. However, thanks to vaccines, these diseases no longer have a widespread reach. The highly effective nature of vaccines has mostly gotten rid of severe outcomes of diseases. Therefore, it is crucial for everyone to receive all vaccines recommended for their age group.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines help create immunity towards diseases. They help strengthen the immune system by exposing the immune system to a weakened form of the virus. This trains our immune systems to create proteins that can then fight the disease. These proteins are called antibodies. Additionally, since the vaccines are weakened strains of the virus, we do not usually get sick when getting vaccines! While there can be some side effects, the effects will be nowhere near as unpleasant as actually getting sick with the disease. Another key component to making vaccines effective in a population is herd immunity. Herd immunity is also known as “population immunity.” Herd immunity, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.” To break this down, herd immunity works by slowing down the spread of disease from person to person and as a result, the community becomes protected as a whole.
Vaccines and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Vaccines are playing a critical role in helping to end this pandemic, although we are still in the midst of it. If enough people receive their COVID-19 vaccines, the global population can eventually build up herd immunity and things can return to what they once were. As of August 30, 2021, Our World in Data has reported that around 53% of the United States has been fully vaccinated, and that 47.8% of Nevada has been fully vaccinated. These numbers need to continue to increase in order for things to return to normal. At the moment, there are three authorized COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. This means that three vaccines have passed clinical trials and have received emergency use authorization by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The three vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, and the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine has been found to be 95% effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus. This vaccine is available to people age 12 and older. It requires two injections given 21 days apart, but the second dose can be given up to six weeks after the first dose if needed. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is 94% effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms. This vaccine is authorized for people 18 and older. It requires two injections given 28 days apart, but the second dose can also be given up to six weeks after the first dose. Lastly, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been found 66% effective in preventing the COVID-19 virus, with only one dose. All statistics about vaccine effectiveness rates are according to the FDA.
Common Misconceptions with the COVID-19 Vaccine
Some have questioned the safety and readiness of the COVID-19 vaccines, due to widespread misinformation that is being spread through social media. Although these vaccines are quite “new,” many clinical trials took place at the same time in the U.S. to ensure their safety and effectiveness. The vaccines had been tested in nearly 75,000 subjects total, and given to millions of other U.S. citizens as of today. In addition, there are concerns with the vaccine being “fast-tracked” and distributed so quickly. But what allowed for the vaccine to be distributed quickly was not a shortcut in the testing phase, but rather an expedited process of administrative approvals and funding. Since the world was in a global pandemic, a lot of the regulations and procedures were able to be expedited. The same research, testing, and quality assurance that normally goes into other vaccines was also done for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Overall, receiving a vaccine for a fatal illness is far more beneficial than getting infected with the virus and spreading it to your friends and family. Even in healthy, young adults, COVID-19 can pose serious threats and no one is invincible to it. Getting fully vaccinated for COVID-19 is the best way to ensure you and others around you stay protected against the negative effects of COVID-19.
This blog post was written for Healthy Young NV by Mark, a student ambassador of High Sierra AHEC. Mark is currently majoring in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Nevada, Reno.