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Vaccines, Vaccines, Vaccines

By Courtney Bibo

Published September 9, 2021 in The Burg

I’m sure by now, everyone is well aware of the polarizing topic of Covid vaccines. It seems like people are on one side or the other and have very strong feelings about them. Some people are confused on which one to get. My goal with this article is to explain some confusing things about these vaccines and hope to make people’s decision a little easier.

First of all, there are two kinds of vaccines available right now: Messenger RNA (mRNA) and viral vector. mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) use a new technology that has not been used in vaccines before. They work by teaching our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response that in turn produces antibodies. Antibodies protect us from getting sick if we come in contact with the actual virus. There is no way to get Covid from these types of vaccines and they do not alter our DNA. These vaccines have been associated with myocarditis (inflammation of the middle layer of the heart wall) and pericarditis (swelling/irritation of the membrane that surrounds the heart) in adolescents and young adults. Viral vector vaccines (Johnson and Johnson, also called Janssen) use a different, harmless, virus to give instructions to our body’s cells. This virus is not the Covid virus, but a completely harmless one. I want to make that clear! And that harmless virus allows our body to produce a tiny piece of virus that causes Covid-19 (the spike protein we’ve all heard about). This spike protein then goes on to allow our body to make antibodies that will be used to fight against the Covid-19 virus if we come in contact with it. You cannot get Covid from this vaccine and, again, it does not alter our DNA in any way. Women under the age of 50 should not get this vaccine due to the risk of a serious type of blood clot with low platelets. I also want to point out that these vaccines do not protect you from spreading the virus to others. What vaccines do is protect us from a serious illness. People who are vaccinated can still get sick from Covid-19 but they are likely to have less severe symptoms and not as likely to end up in the hospital. There is a third kind of vaccine, that is American-based, called Novavax, but they have not filed for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or full FDA approval yet. They have been conducting studies and are in clinical phase 3. Novavax contains a spike protein that was made from moth cells. This spike protein is completely harmless and cannot give you Covid-19. When your body encounters the spike protein, it produces antibodies which will protect you from an actual Covid-19 virus. This technology is more traditional and similar to the flu, HPV, and HepB vaccines. There have also been only mild to moderate side effects reported to date. They are slated to file for EUA in the 4th quarter of this year (so, sometime in October-December). Currently, only Pfizer has full FDA approval in the United States. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are still under EUA. People should also be aware that not every group out there has been studied with these vaccines, even though Pfizer has FDA approval. People with autoimmune conditions should know there is no data, to date, available on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines. It is also of note to point out there is no long-term data on these vaccines since they just came out. That is not by the wrongdoing of anyone- there simply has not been enough time to pass to gather this kind of data. Lastly, I will get on soap box, so to speak, about flu vaccines! Flu season is approaching us rapidly and even though many people have received their Covid vaccine, it does not protect you from the flu. The flu vaccine has been around for decades and has full FDA approval and has a great safety profile. The best time to get your flu vaccine is by October 14. I say this because it takes about 2 weeks for our bodies to produce antibodies and flu season starts ramping up at the beginning of November. So, if you get it by October 14, you will have full protection by the start of the season. Also, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine! As always, feel free to reach out to me with any comments or questions at I’d love to hear from you! References (Courtney Garland Bibo has a bachelor's in psychology, has her cosmetology license and still runs a salon, works as a Registered Nurse, and is in her third year of her Doctor of Nursing Practice/Family Nurse Practitioner program with Psychiatric Mental Health and Rural Health concentrations at University of Illinois at Chicago- Quad Cities Campus.)

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