Now that COVID-19 vaccines are being widely distributed throughout the country, many people have questions about what this means for themselves and their loved ones.
To answer your questions, we spoke with Leigh Dodds, BSN, BA, RN, about her vaccine experience. Leigh is a Senior Area Director of Patient Advocacy at Intrepid USA. She oversees all of our Care Centers in Tennessee & Mississippi.
PLEASE NOTE: The information provided in this blog is accurate at the time of publication. To find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the current vaccines, please visit the CDC’s website.
What is your clinical background?
I started my career as an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapist before becoming a Registered Nurse. Today, I am the Senior Area Director of Patient Advocacy at Intrepid USA Healthcare Services. In this role, I act as a liaison for patients, families, and their healthcare providers to ensure patients receive the care they need in the comfort and safety of their own homes.
When did you become interested in vaccines in general?
As an ABA Therapist, I worked with children with autism. That is when I took a particular interest in vaccines.
What do we know about the current FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines?
Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for three vaccines: the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, and, most recently, the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines are “messenger RNA” (mRNA) vaccines. mRNA is a breakthrough technology that creates immunity in a different way than traditional vaccines. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. That immune response to the mRNA vaccine produces antibodies, protecting us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies. For more information about the mRNA technology in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines, you can read more about them here on the CDC’s website.
The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine modifies an existing adenovirus, which usually causes colds, with the novel coronavirus’ spike protein. The resulting adenovirus cannot reproduce in the human body, meaning it can’t cause COVID-19 or any other illnesses. When you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the modified adenovirus travels to the cell nucleus, home to its DNA. The adenovirus puts its DNA into the nucleus, the spike protein gene is read by the cell, and it’s then copied into mRNA. Your cells begin making spike proteins, which are then recognized by your immune system, causing your body to produce antibodies. For more information on how the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 Vaccine works, you can read more about it here on the CDC’s website.
It’s important to note that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines require two shots, but the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Janssen COVID-19 vaccine only requires one shot.
Who should get the COVID-19 vaccine?
All adults should consider receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, especially those who work in healthcare or in very close contact with the public. Vaccination is an important consideration for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions because they are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Is there anyone who should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Anyone who has previously experienced an allergic reaction to vaccines, currently on chemotherapy, or uses any medicines that may suppress their immune system should talk with their healthcare provider about whether the vaccine is right for them. Additionally, anyone who currently has COVID-19 should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and have met the criteria for discontinuing isolation. This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine.
Does the vaccine fully prevent you from getting COVID-19?
All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19. Based on early data from clinical trials, experts believe that the vaccine may prevent you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.
Why should someone get the vaccine if there is still a chance they could contract COVID-19?
You don’t know how your body will respond to COVID-19 if you become infected. Especially if you are older or have comorbidities, it is impossible to predict the disease’s potential severity. Getting vaccinated yourself may also help protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Even young people who do not fall into the “high-risk” category should consider getting the vaccine because we do not know the long-term effects of COVID-19. Many people who have recovered from COVID-19 are experiencing long-term consequences, including heart issues, lung issues, and more. So, if the vaccine keeps you from dealing with those long-term issues associated with COVID, that is really important.
What was your experience getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
I received the Moderna vaccine through our local health department. We have been fortunate because our health department has been on top of things from the get-go. They actually contacted our local Intrepid USA Care Center to schedule vaccines for our Care Team members. We received our first dose of the vaccine alongside many of our community’s first responders, and they gave us our follow-up card for the second vaccine dose.
Did you experience any side effects after receiving the vaccine?
After my first dose of the Moderna vaccine, I did not have any symptoms apart from some soreness at the injection site. The soreness lasted approximately 12 hours. Following my second dose, I did have a sore arm again and redness around the injection site. Later that evening, I experienced some mild flu-like symptoms. I was tired, achy, and my lymph nodes were a bit swollen. I made sure to get plenty of rest that night and felt like myself again the next day.
As a nurse, I know that the mild symptoms I experienced after my second dose are a good thing. It means that my immune system is doing its job and forming the right antibodies.
For those who have been fully-vaccinated for COVID-19, how long can they expect immunity to last?
Experts are learning more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity and how long it lasts.