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COVID Vaccines

To understand vaccines first let us understand the types of cells that play a role in our immune system.

Our body is exposed to many outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. When these enter our bodies and start multiplying we can become infected and ill. Our blood carries red blood cells which distributes oxygen throughout the body and white blood cells that help to fight infections. There are several types of white cells, mainly macrophages, T cells, and B cells. They each have a distinct role in our immune system.

Macrophages: swallow and digest dead or dying cells. They leave behind pieces of bacteria or viruses that are called antigens. The body then identifies these antigens are foreign and dangerous and hence stimulates antibodies to fight against them.

B lymphocytes: these are the white blood cells that make the antibodies against the antigens left behind by the macrophages. They function on the outside of the cells.

T lymphocytes: these are white blood cells that attack cells in the body that have already been infected with a outsider. They function more on the inside of the cells.

When an individual is infected with COVID-19, it can take some time for the body to make all the necessary tools to fight this infection. This can take days to weeks. Once the body has fought the infection it keeps a few T cells as “memory” cells that come into action quickly if the COVID-19 virus is seen again. B cells then go into action to make antibodies against the virus. Because this process can take time, it is possible to get infected with the COVID-19 virus either just before or after vaccination.

Currently we have three types of vaccines:

mRNA vaccines: virus material gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. Once the cells make copies of the genetic material it destroys it. Our body recognizes that the protein is foreign and builds T and B lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COIVD-19.

Protein subunit vaccines: harmless pieces proteins of the virus are used. After vaccination, our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T lymphocytes and antibodies that will remember how to fight the virus if we are infected in the future.

Vector vaccines: contains a modified ver of a different virus than COVID-19. Inside the modified virus is material from the COVID-19 virus. Once this viral vector is inside our cells it gives instructions to make a protein that is unique to COVID-19. Our cells make copies of this protein which prompts our bodies to build T and B lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.

Fully Vaccinated:

Two shots: considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your second shot. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna

One shot: considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your shot. Johnson and Johnson

Can I behave like there is no pandemic after vaccination?

No. Vaccines are one of the many steps to protect ourselves and others and we still need to get millions of people vaccinated to even reach herd immunity. It is therefore important to continue to take steps to protect yourself and those around you in public spaces. Continue to wear a mask, use sanitizer, wash hands properly, socially distance.

Concerns about vaccines:

As we all know, J&J vaccine has been halted after 6 women reported a rare blood-clotting disorder out of the 7.5 million doses of the J&J vaccine given in the United States. These women were between 18-48 and experienced symptoms 6-13 days after receiving the J&J vaccine. It is anticipated that the FDA will make a decision regarding the vaccine within the week. It is important to understand that the blood-clotting disorder is very rare, however those who have received it should monitor for any symptoms such as severe headaches, shortness of breath, chest discomfort etc. It is important to remind ourselves that although important and crucial to understand side effects, the vaccines do work and are highly effective against COVID-19. The CDC also has a symptom surveillance in place to catch such issues, which is how this rare clotting disorder was found. The pause in vaccine distribution will allow CDC’s independent advisory committee, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, to meet and review reports to assess the significance of the clotting disorder.

As of April 13, 2021 there have been no reports of blood clots with low platelets among the 180 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.


Risk of CVST

(cerebral venous sinus thrombosis)

US population vaccinated with J&J vaccine: 6 out of 6.8 million
General population: 5 out of 1,000,000 annually
Risk of any type of clot
Women not on birth control: up to 5 out of 10,000
Women on birth control: up to 1 out of 100 over 10 years
ICU patients with severe COVID-19: 31 out of 100/td>

Bottom Line:

Get vaccinated. The more people that are vaccinated, the more we are all protected, and the virus has less chance of survival and hence cannot mutate any further.

If you have an appointment for J&J, contact your provider to reschedule with one of the other vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna.

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