Here's why it's so hard to stop feeling anxious, even once you've gotten your coronavirus shot -- and how to deal with the fear.
Vaccine is the buzzword of the minute. Everyone is talking about getting a vaccine, scheduling a vaccine or who has received a vaccine.
Add Queen Elizabeth II and Martha Stewart to the list.
A new HIV vaccine, based on the Moderna COVID-19 inoculation, has shown a 97% antibody response rate in Phase I clinical trials. Currently, HIV affects more than 38 million people globally. If approved, this vaccine could become the first stage of a multi-step strategy to combat HIV and other viral diseases. The vaccine successfully stimulated the production of rare immune cells needed to generate antibodies against HIV, which causes AIDS and interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections, reported non-profit organizations IAVI and Scripps Research. “This study demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well,” said William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center (NAC). The vaccine is meant to act as an immune primer that triggers the activation of cells via a process called “germline-targeting,” according to The European Pharmaceutical Review. Its purpose is to act as the first step in a vaccine regimen that would elicit the production of a variety of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs). Stimulating this type of response has reportedly been pursued in HIV research for decades because it targets a structural aspect of the virus that does not vary much from strain to strain. The surface of HIV cells has proteins called spikes. The vaccine works to disable them from entering human cells. While a 97% response rate is exceptionally positive, it is important to note that this is representative of an initial study of 48 adult volunteers who enrolled in the trial. Phase I testing marks the first time a vaccine is tested on a small group of adults in order to evaluate its safety and measure immune responses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the next step, Phase II, would be to expand the clinical study and give the vaccine to people similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. By Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people to test efficacy and safety before being submitted for a rigorous approval and licensing process. Often, vaccines undergo a Phase IV in which the vaccine would go through a formal, ongoing study even after it’s been approved. “As a next step, IAVI and Scripps Research are partnering with the biotechnology company Modern to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine that harnesses the approach to produce the same beneficial immune cells,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “Using mRNA technology could significantly accelerate the pace of HIV vaccine development.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?What Happens If You Get COVID Between Vaccines?The Biggest Dating App Flex Is Being Vaccinated9 Common Vaccine Myths, Debunked
Data continues to evolve, but it looks promising.
The idea of requiring proof of vaccination is not new. For years, select countries have had yellow fever vaccination entry requirements in place.
Experts give advice for assessing risk as families navigate this next stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because we can't stop talking about how to get the shot.
The timeline may be a lot sooner than you realize.
The nation recently hit a new record by administering more than 4 million doses in 24 hours.
The vaccine is free, but employees still bear the burdens of navigating sign-up systems and recovering from the shots.
With approximately 19% of the U.S. population fully vaccinated, we have more information than ever about the three COVID-19 vaccines currently available to Americans — and we also have a lot of information about their side effects. Nausea, muscle pain, chills, fatigue, and a fever are all normal reactions. So normal, in fact, that some people might now be more worried about what it means if they feel nothing. But experts say that both side effects and a lack thereof are no cause for concern. “The reason why people have different levels of side effects or different severity is complex and not fully understood,” Abisola Olulade, MD, a San Diego-based physician, tells Refinery29. However, we do know that side effects are connected to immune response, which is why people who are older — and have weaker immune systems — are actually less likely to experience them. “Essentially, when you get a vaccine, your body recognizes it as foreign, and then it triggers inflammation. And that’s essentially what gives those side effects. So some people may not have that trigger as strongly as others.” The way you react to a vaccine depends on a whole slew of factors, including age, preexisting conditions, and genetics. Studies show that people with high levels of estrogen are likely to report stronger side effects, and data released in February indicated that people who have previously had COVID-19 also tend to take longer to shake off the post-vaccine symptoms. Dr. Olulade says that even things like your environment, diet, and stress levels might play a role in your reaction to the shot. You also might experience a different reaction depending on your vaccine. According to a recent study published in JAMA, about 75% of people said they experienced some sort of reaction after receiving their second dose of the Moderna vaccine, whereas just 64% of people experienced side effects from their second Pfizer-BioNTech shot. The Johnson & Johnson shot, which only requires one dose, has the fewest reported side effects, but it also has the lowest efficacy rate: While the Moderna and Pfizer shots have 94.1% and 95% efficacy rates, respectively, the J&J vaccine is at 72% overall, and 86% against serious disease. (It should be noted that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is still an important and efficient combat to COVID-19.) These numbers also prove that side effects don’t dictate vaccine efficacy. In the Pfizer trial, for example, only around half of all test subjects said they had any physical reaction to the vaccine. “They all, regardless of whether or not they had side effects, had really good protection against coronavirus,” says Dr. Olulade. “So that tells you that just because someone doesn’t have side effects, it doesn’t mean the vaccine is not effective.” But everyone’s immune system is different, and just like it’s perfectly normal not to experience any side effects, it’s also normal if you do feel achy, sick, or exhausted after your vaccine. In fact, it’s just proof that your body is mounting an immune response. “Vaccine side effects are a great thing,” Dr. Olulade adds. “It tells us that your immune system is working and it’s responding the way we want it to, which is very important.” This doesn’t mean, though, that if you don’t have a side effect, anything is wrong with you. More good news: Side effects from all three vaccines should go away within a couple days. The only real reason to worry, according to the CDC, is if you’re still experiencing symptoms after a few days, or if the injection site becomes even more tender, red, or swollen after 24 hours. If either of these things happen, call a doctor (or take an antihistamine if you suspect you have a rash or other type of allergic reaction). Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?COVID Vaccine Booster Shots Are ComingThe COVID-19 Vaccines May Have Surprising BenefitsA New HIV Vaccine Is Getting Promising Results
While these states have taken steps to limit vaccine passports, New York has introduced its own.
When I see people offering to help other people – even strangers! – find a coveted COVID-19 vaccine appointment, I can’t help but smile. Here's why.
In the hours before the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved in the U.S. for emergency use, I was on the phone with epidemiologists and medical experts who were detailing the expected advantages to widespread vaccination: There’d be fewer deaths, and fewer severe cases of COVID-19, so hospitals wouldn’t be so overwhelmed. The folks I spoke to called the news a “light at the end of the tunnel” moment. Getting shots in as many arms as possible would be key to achieving herd immunity, they said, so we could eventually return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. But as the three approved U.S. vaccines — Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — have rolled out to more than 100 million Americans, we’ve learned there may be more unexpected benefits to vaccination than experts initially saw coming. Here are just a few of them. Many of the vaccines offer at least some protection against the variants Though the swift vaccine rollout has made the future look brighter than it has in a while, there’s at least one ominous cloud hanging over us: COVID-19 variants, which are mutated strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Experts say that some may be more contagious and possibly more deadly than the original strain. You’ve likely heard of the B.1.1.7, the B.1.351, and the P.1 variants, which have hit Britain, Brazil, and South Africa, respectively. When these strains were first identified, experts weren’t sure whether the existing vaccines would protect against them. Fortunately, studies have shown that both messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are highly effective against the B.1.1.7 variant. And while these vaccines are four to seven times less effective against the P.1 variant, they still may offer a “cushion of protection,” especially after two doses, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House Press Briefing. Early research pointed to the idea that both mRNA vaccines and Johnson & Johnson would be less effective against the B.1.351 variant. However, early this month Pfizer released trial data showing their vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in South Africa, where B.1.351 is common. To be on the safe side, the developers of all three of the vaccines that have been approved in the U.S. are working quickly to try to make their formulas more efficacious against the variants, and are experimenting with booster shots. “All the vaccines work really well for severe disease right now, and likely offer some protection against the variants,” says Preeti N. Malani, MD, chief health officer at the University of Michigan. “I’m optimistic but we still need to be careful right now.” Some COVID-19 long haulers say the vaccines are relieving their symptoms Between 10% and 30% of folks who get COVID-19 experience long-term symptoms, the National Institutes of Health notes. Some people who’ve dealt with lingering issues are now saying that the vaccine helped ease their symptoms. “It’s getting to be a large number of reports, hundreds of reports of patients that we’ve been caring for with COVID almost a year now,” Daniel Griffin, MD, PhD, chief of infectious disease at ProHealth, told CNN. “They are reporting that following vaccination they’re having significant, if not complete, resolution of their long COVID symptoms.” In a survey of 345 people — most of whom lived in Britain and were women — 32% reported their lingering COVID symptoms improved two weeks or more after their first vaccine does. Other researchers are looking into this too, though no peer-reviewed studies have been published on this topic. It’s too early to say why the vaccine may ease long-term symptoms. It’s possible that lingering issues occur in people who are unable to fully clear the virus from their bodies; the vaccine could prompt a robust reaction from the immune system to nix the virus that causes COVID-19 once and for all. It’s also possible that long COVID symptoms are caused by a form of immune dysfunction. The vaccine may prompt an “immune reset” that resolves the issues, Dr. Malani explains. “We still don’t understand why some people are at risk for [long COVID],” she adds, “but the fact that we are even hearing anecdotes of people saying they’re having reduced symptoms after the vaccine is promising.” The COVID-19 shots pave the way for future vaccine research In 1796, the first ever vaccine was created for smallpox, when a British physician injected a patient with pus “from the sores of a milkmaid who had contracted a biologically related virus from cows,” the Association of American Medical Colleges notes. Until 2020, a similar method was used for all vaccines (minus the pus) — patients received often inactivated or weakened versions of the virus itself. But what scientists have learned while developing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may pave the way for future vaccines, including for diseases such as HIV, influenza, Zika, and rabies. (Human trials for mRNA vaccines against these diseases were already underway pre-COVID-19, an analysis in Nature notes). Unlike other vaccines, mRNA vaccines work by instructing our cells to make proteins or pieces of proteins that help our body recognize a key piece of the virus and create an immune response to it. “The vaccine field has been forever transformed and forever advanced because of COVID-19,” Dan Barouch, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Harvard Medical School, told the AAMC. Pregnant people may pass immunity on to newborns Although the vaccine trials didn’t include pregnant people for ethical reasons, more than 69,000 pregnant people have been vaccinated in the U.S. to date, and early research suggests the vaccines are likely safe and effective during pregnancy. Not to mention, preliminary findings from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology also indicate that if a pregnant person gets the vaccine while expecting, they might provide protection to newborns as well. This builds on other research that showed that vaccinated people may pass antibodies to COVID-19 through the placenta to the fetus. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but if it’s true, it would be big news, as some newborns are more vulnerable to severe illness, and it’s unlikely a vaccine will be approved for this age group any time soon. The vaccination may make people less contagious For the most part, the COVID-19 vaccines keep people from contracting the virus in the first place. But in the rare case that someone does test positive post-jab, their viral load will likely be much lower than an unvaccinated person’s, suggests an Israeli study (that, fair warning, has not yet been peer-reviewed). There are two benefits to having a low viral load (which refers to the amount of virus detected in someone’s system): They’ll be less at risk for severe disease, and they may not spread the virus to others as easily. The vaccines can reduce COVID anxiety Sure, we knew getting the vaccine would be a relief — but many people are saying that they didn’t expect to feel so good post-shot. “Over the last year, people have been afraid to do normal things like seeing their friends and family, and they’ve been really lonely,” Dr Malani says. “Being isolated and being lonely are big health risks, too, and they can take a physical toll on both younger and older adults.” For some, getting vaccinated and letting go of the COVID anxiety feels like taking the first deep breath of fresh air in a year. “After the second shot — I had that ‘aha’ moment that things are looking up and we are moving towards our new normal, whatever the new normal will be,” New Yorker Alexa Nikiforou says. “There was a feeling of hope Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?9 Common Vaccine Myths, DebunkedWhat Happens If You Get Two Different Vaccines?Vaccine Passports Are Coming
Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced that every adult in the U.S. will be eligible to get vaccinated by April 19, a full two weeks ahead of his original deadline. Over 63 million Americans are fully vaccinated, and more than 108 million have received at least one dose, a total that comprises over a third of America’s population. With herd immunity now being an attainable goal, experts are already looking ahead: Vaccine makers have begun to turn their attention to COVID vaccine booster shots. Booster shots are additional doses of vaccines, that “are given either to pump up decreasing immunity or to fight against a new variant,” explains Jill Grimes, MD, a family physician based in Texas. Not every vaccination requires a booster, she says: Tetanus vaccines require a booster every 10 years to build immunity toward the illness, while people typically only need one series of measles shots in childhood. “The flu vaccine, however, must be boosted every year, not because our immunity from the previous year is fading out, but because the virus is mutating and changing enough that last year’s protection no longer works,” Dr. Grimes says. “COVID virus acts more like the flu virus, as we are seeing new variants emerge.” As of now, it’s unclear when exactly we’d need to start getting boosters; experts are still determining how long the current vaccines will offer adequate immunity against COVID-19. The results of a study released this week showed that the Moderna vaccine continued to offer protection six months after the second dose. “Most scientists expect that immunity will extend at least to one year,” Dr. Grimes says. She notes that right now, the current vaccines are also seemingly effective enough against the emerging new variants. “But if we start seeing fully immunized people getting significant disease from newer variants, then yes, a booster shot would be developed targeting that variant,” she says. “Frankly, that’s the beauty of the mRNA vaccines, because they can be easily modified!” But if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that there’s value in acting early. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have all indicated that they’re looking into creating booster doses of their vaccines. Dr. Grimes says that, at first, people would probably be encouraged to get a booster of whatever vaccine they first received (if you get the Moderna shot, you’d get a Moderna booster). But, she adds, “At some point in the future, I would not be surprised if it’s okay to ‘mix and match.’” Over a year ago, Refinery29 spoke to Jennifer Haller, the women who received one of the very first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., the then-unapproved Moderna vaccine. A month ago, Haller agreed to re-enroll in the trial to receive a booster shot. She got back on the phone with Refinery29 to update us on her experience. Refinery29: So you got the booster shot! What was that like? Jennifer Haller: “I got a booster shot four weeks ago. They contacted me at the end of February to say that they were offering a booster shot for phase 1 trial participants. And if we wanted to accept, that would re-enroll us into the study for another 12 months. The goal is to get through really early indicators of how this booster shot might work, and what kind of efficacy they have. “It was an easy decision for me. For one, I wanted to get the booster to improve my own safety. But more importantly, I wanted to be part of the study, which is going to allow us to get some early indication about how we might administer boosters to others.” Refinery29: Did you experience any side effects from the booster? How did it compare to the actual vaccine? “The phase 1 trial that I was in is all about testing safety in humans, so they start with a small dose. I had 25 microgram doses of the vaccine. The regular dose ended up being 100 micrograms. But this booster dose was 100 micrograms. I did experience side effects, which was exciting to me — it means my body knew what to do or how to build up a defense! It wasn’t too bad. The next day, my arm was very sore and I had a little bit of nausea and a temperature with chills. But that resolved within a few hours.” What comes next? “The process is similar to what I did before: For the week following the booster I tracked my symptoms or any side effects. Then I returned one week later and two weeks later for blood draws; tomorrow is my four week post blood draw. And then I think there will be three-month, six-month, and 12-month checkups.” We first spoke over a year ago now, right after you received the first dose of the then-unapproved Moderna vaccine. Back then, everything was so uncertain and scary. What’s life been like more recently? “Two weeks ago I was able to see my parents for the first time. They also had their first and second shots, and it was two weeks after my booster, so we were all fully vaccinated and felt comfortable. It was really wild to be able to walk into their house without a mask on, and to sit down and have dinner. It had been over a year. “About a month ago, I was contacted by a large Facebook Group of participants of the COVID-19 vaccine trials. They tracked me down and invited me to join the group, and I received a really beautiful, overwhelming welcome from people who said that I inspired them to participate in the trial. It’s a real acknowledgement of the power of leading by example. But also of the exponential effect that my one act had on inspiring others to join the trial; and their action likely inspired others as well. It’s a beautiful thing to experience that exponential growth from one small act.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Pfizer vs. Moderna Memes Are Full Of HopeThe Biggest Dating App Flex Is Being VaccinatedPeople Are Dressing Up To Get The Vaccine
"Fall 2021 at Brown will look and feel much more like Fall 2019 than Fall 2020," the school's president, Christina H. Paxson, said.
We also found out if it's okay to delay your second shot beyond the recommended guidelines.
I felt such a sense of relief when I got my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I got vaccinated at the Javits Center in New York City, a mass vaccination site, and the process was pretty easy and relatively painless.
The two-shot coronavirus vaccines have been shown to have considerable efficacy rates even after a single dose, but there’s still a chance you can contract COVID-19 after receiving your first shot. This is why the time between shots (and immediately after) is so important: That is when your immune system is learning how to protect you properly — and unfortunately, you’re not completely in the clear. “Especially between the two doses of a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, it’s important to make sure that you still take precautions because you’re not fully vaccinated and you could get infected in-between those two doses,” Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Refinery29. The reason for this has to do with the effectiveness of a single dose in a two-dose system. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is only 52% effective after the first shot, according to one study. While the Moderna vaccine shows 80% effectiveness after the initial dose, both of these vaccines start working at their optimal levels about two weeks after the second dose, when their efficacy rates jump to over 90%. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes about 14 days for your immune system to fully respond to the coronavirus vaccine. That’s why the second shot is so important. It also seems to matter at what point during your vaccination schedule you get infected. “If you got COVID between doses of the vaccine, when you got it in that interval would likely influence how severe the symptoms might be,” Adalja explained. “If it was two weeks post your first dose, I suspect that the vaccine-induced immunity would have some impact on how bad the infection might be. So it’s likely to be a little bit less severe if it’s two weeks or more past the first dose. And I think if it’s before that, you probably don’t have much vaccine-induced immunity. Maybe some after a week, but it could be more like a normal case of COVID-19 that you would have had were it not for the vaccine.” So what should you do if you get sick in-between shots? The advice will sound familiar, as it is pretty much the exact same thing you’d do if you got the virus without a vaccine. First things first: Isolating yourself will keep you from spreading the virus to others. And, you should still go for shot #2. “You should get your second dose as planned,” Adalja said. “But only if you’re not still contagious. So it should be 10 days or so since you developed symptoms or tested positive before you get your second dose so you don’t expose anybody when you’re getting vaccinated.” However, it is important to note that this time frame may vary for people. Abisola Olulade, MD, a physician in San Diego, told Refinery29 that someone who is immunocompromised may take longer to recover fully before being able to safely receive the second dose. “Possibly for up to 20 days, and you should discuss this with your doctor,” she added. Once you’ve recovered and are symptom-free with the all-clear from a medical professional, you are able to receive the second dose of the vaccine as planned. There’s no evidence that having COVID would impact the effectiveness of the second dose, Dr. Adalja said. If this all takes place before your original booster appointment, then stick to your original appointment time as long as you get the go-ahead from your doctor. But if the three or four weeks between doses have passed, you should try to reschedule your appointment as soon as possible. Currently, there is limited data on what happens if you wait too long between vaccine appointments. “The CDC has stated that you can wait up to six weeks before getting a second dose of the mRNA vaccines,” said Dr. Olulade. “Beyond this time frame, there is limited data available on efficacy. We don’t have a lot of evidence on how it would affect the efficacy at this point.” It’s important to remember that even at full efficacy, no vaccine currently on the market completely prevents you from getting coronavirus. Even after you get the second dose, you could still become infected. What the vaccine does do, though, is make that possibility rare, and most importantly, it keeps symptoms from becoming severe. In fact, studies have shown that your risk of contracting a serious case after being vaccinated is incredibly low. “Two weeks after [your] second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, I do think you can become much more open about the activities that you engage in because you are definitely protected from severe disease, symptomatic disease, and highly unlikely to be a transmitter of the virus,” Dr. Adalja said. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?What Happens If You Get Two Different Vaccines?9 Common Vaccine Myths, DebunkedThe Biggest Dating App Flex Is Being Vaccinated