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COVID-19: Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Vaccinated

Zoey Johnson, Grade 11

Almost two years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, the medical and scientific community has finally developed vaccines to fight against COVID-19. It’s always important to be well informed before making any kind of medical decision, so here is everything you should know before deciding to get vaccinated!

What Vaccines are Available?

There are currently four vaccines available that have been approved by the Canadian Government. Out of the four vaccines available, there are two kinds: mRNA vaccines and viral-vector vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Spikevax are classified as mRNA vaccines and are available to those 12 years and older. AstraZeneca Vaxzevriaand Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) are classified as viral vector vaccines and are available to those 18 years and older.

What are mRNA Vaccines? How Do They Work?

The mRNA vaccines available in Canada are Pfizer and Moderna. The mRNA, or messenger RNA vaccines are a newer and more accessible type of vaccine that has been researched and developed for the past few decades. It’s beginning to become a more favoured type of technology as this type of vaccine expels the use of cells and pathogens. Instead, it works by using information to teach cells to create the necessary ingredients themselves using more widely available ingredients.

The mRNA vaccine works by giving cells a set of instructions to build a replica of spike protein found on COVID-19. The spike protein is found on the outermost part of the virus. The replica that the mRNA vaccine teaches your cells to build will not harm you or give you COVID-19. As the cells build the replica of the spike protein, your immune system will begin to recognize the replica as COVID-19 and formulate a plan to fight it. The vaccine’s purpose is to provide a harmless sample that enables your cells to recognize the virus and immediately begin attacking if it ever enters your body. This prevents the virus from causing more damage to your body. The mRNA vaccines are recommended for those who have an autoimmune disorder or are immunocompromised due to disease or treatment.

What are Viral Vector Vaccines?

Viral vector vaccines are a more traditional type of vaccine that uses a vector, a benign adaptation of a virus, to create replicas of the COVID-19 proteins without causing an infection. Once the proteins have been created, it works the same way as the mRNA vaccine does to protect you. The proteins enable your cells to recognize and formulate a defence mechanism against it. This prevents the viruses from inhabiting and causing more damage to your body if it ever enters you.

What are the Known Side Effects of the Vaccines Currently?

The known side effects from receiving one of these vaccines are quite common across vaccines in general. After receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, you may experience pain, redness, or swelling on the arm the dose was administered. Using a cool washcloth to cover the arm and exercising it can help reduce these side effects. You may also experience fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever or nausea. These side effects can be relieved with over-the-counter medicine and by consuming plenty of fluids. However, if the side effects persist after a few days or the redness and tenderness worsen, consult with your doctor or healthcare provider as a precaution.

There are also more severe side effects that could occur; however, these cases are extremely rare. Allergic reactions to the vaccine do happen, including anaphylaxis. The mRNA vaccines have reports of myocarditis, pericarditis, and Bell’s palsy after vaccinations. The viral vector vaccines have reports of blood clots with low platelets, capillary leak syndrome, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

How Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Help?

The vaccine works to keep you and everyone around you safe. As the vaccine allows your body to recognize and develop antibodies against the virus, it prevents you from developing life-threatening and severe symptoms that can result in hospitalization and death. The vaccine also has been shown to reduce the chances of you receiving and spreading COVID-19. Vaccinated people have been shown to have fewer symptoms and a quicker recovery rate. Faster recovery rates also minimize the opportunity for the virus to cultivate in the body and transmit to others through symptoms like coughing. This would help decrease infection rates of the virus amongst the population, therefore, preventing the appearance of future variants. Although you can develop natural immunity after contracting and recovering from the virus, it

About 75.96% of Canada’s population has taken at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. To find out whether you can get vaccinated, visit The Government of Canada’s website!

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