How the COVID-19 Vaccine Works

By Francheska Lupo

February 4, 2021


On December 14, 2020 in New York City, the first COVID-19 vaccine was given, but there is still widespread distrust amongst the public towards the immunization, largely due to misunderstanding. There are multiple companies distributing the vaccine to specific groups of people, and it can get confusing to understand how it all works as it changes quite often. 

To make it simple, refer to cdc.gov for which vaccines are available and recommended. As of now, the vaccines produced by the companies Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are what is authorized by the CDC. Both vaccines are an mRNA vaccine. Pfizer-BioNTech’s requires getting two vaccines 21 days apart, while Moderna’s is 28 days, both in the muscle of the upper arm. It does not contain eggs, latex or preservatives and to get a more extensive list of ingredients you can visit either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s COVID-19 Fact Sheet for recipients. According to cdc.gov, the mRNA vaccine “contain[s] material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.” This simple yet effective method immunizes our bodies and does not infect us with the actual virus. There are some common side effects that both shots can cause, including arm pain, swelling, and redness, and sometimes symptoms similar to the flu. However these only last for a few days, and have been reported as mild to moderate during clinical trials, despite one of the greatest fears people have regarding the vaccine being the side effects.

Right now in California, the vaccine roll out is still in phase 1A, where only health workers can get the vaccine and it is estimated that the state will enter phase 1B in early February, when people above the age of 75 will get the vaccine. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will help others in your community, and protect you from getting the virus. Both vaccines have undergone extensive clinical testing and are approved by the FDA and CDC. The bottom line is that getting the vaccine is the most effective way to fight off this pandemic.

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