COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know

By: Stacey Brake, RN, BSN9Health Director of Health and Wellness

We have all read about people struck with COVID-19 who needed ventilators and other extreme measures. Since there is no way to know how your body will react to the coronavirus, be smart and get the vaccine as soon as you can.  

The COVID-19 vaccine was developed to help stop the pandemic by teaching your body how to recognize and fight the coronavirus. This helps protect you from getting sick and from experiencing serious complications.  

Here are answers to common questions about the coronavirus vaccine:   

How does it work?  

The COVID-19 vaccines are Messenger RNA vaccines (mRNA).  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That response is what protects us from getting infected if COVID-19 enters our bodies. 

Is it safe? 

These vaccines: 

  • Don’t contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. You can’t get COVID-19 from the vaccine. 
  • Don’t affect or interact with your DNA in any way. 
  • Have gone through the same safety tests and meet the same standards as any other vaccines produced through the years. There is a system in place that allows the CDC to watch for safety issues and make sure the vaccines stay safe. 

Why is it important? 

It’s important to do everything we can to slow down and stop the current pandemic by using all available tools. Vaccines work with our immune system so our bodies will be ready to fight the virus if we are exposed. Other steps, like wearing masks and social distancing, help reduce our chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.

Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others will offer the best protection from COVID-19 

Why should I get the COVID-19 Vaccine? 

Important reasons to get the COVID-19 are: 

  • Medical experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. 
  • The COVID-19 vaccine can offer protection against the worst symptoms and complications    
  • The COVID-19 vaccine teaches your immune system how to fight the virus if you are exposed 
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

How long will it for the take vaccine to work? 

Getting both shots is very important. Think of the first dose as a “primer” that tells your body to start building protection and is believed to provide roughly 50% immunity. The second shot, a few weeks later, is needed to get the most protection the vaccine and provides an estimated 95% immunity. You will not develop sufficient immunity to COVID-19 without both doses. 

It is important to remember it generally takes a few weeks for the body to build its protection against the virus after being vaccinated. So a person could be infected just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This means it is critically important to continue practicing mask wearing, social distancing, and washing hands to help stop virus spread.  

Are there side effects from the vaccine? 

There are some potential mild side effects after the first of the second dose. These may include: 

  • Pain, redness or swelling where the shot was given 
  • Fever 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Chills 
  • Joint pain 

You’ll likely be monitored for 15 minutes after getting a COVID-19 vaccine to see if you have an immediate reaction. Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and typically last only one to two days. 

Can I still get COVID-19 if I received the vaccine? 

Yes, you can still get the virus if you are exposed but being vaccinated will help your body fight the infection and may help you from getting seriously ill.  

How long will it last? 

Experts are continuing to gather information to determine how long a person has immunity to COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine.  

What if I have other health conditions? 

People with underlying health conditions can and should get the vaccine unless you have had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to other vaccines or the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to read more about underlying health conditions and the vaccine.

What if I had COVID-19, do I still need to get the vaccine? 

Yes! At this point experts do not know yet how long someone is protected from getting sick again after they have recovered from COVID-19.  Although it is rare to become reinfected with the virus it is still possibility. Since there can be severe health risks if infected with COVID-19 and because reinfection is a possibility, vaccination is recommended.  

For people that were treated with antibodies or convalescent plasma, it is recommended that you wait 90 days before getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Click here for vaccine updates from the State of Colorado.

You will also find information on the vaccine and COVID testing by clicking here. 

Additional Resources:

Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html 

Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-vaccine/art-20484859