All of us here lately have been hearing a lot about COVID vaccines made by one or another pharmaceutical company. We hear words like efficacy, mRNA, 1st & 2nd doses, boosters, Pfizer, Moderna and now, a single dose vaccine by Johnson & Johnson (J&J). It makes our heads spin when all we really want to know is are they safe, effective, and available. To find these answers you may need to visit a multitude of websites and read endless paragraphs filled with scientific language that leaves many of us back where we started, with unanswered questions and confusion. In as few words as possible, let us discuss the basics of the current COVID vaccines available. Pfizer and Moderna were the first labs to produce and receive emergency approval in December 2020 for use of their COVID vaccines. Both use the same basic formula of a “messenger mRNA.” Messenger mRNA delivers a bit of genetic code to the cells when a vaccine using this method is administered to our bodies, triggering the body to develop antibodies and other immune weapons with which to fight a virus. Both have proven to be 95% effective (efficacious). Most who make the choice to receive the vaccine experience flu like symptoms and a sore arm where the vaccine was administered. Some individuals do not have any side effects at all from the vaccination and to date, zero have died or been hospitalized for severe allergic reactions. Here in Arkansas, the Moderna vaccine is the most prevalent vaccine with Pfizer coming second. They both require a 1st and 2nd dose (booster), Pfizer at 21 days (about 3 weeks) and Moderna at 28 days (about 4 weeks) post 1st dose. The J&J vaccine, not out yet but coming soon is a single dose vaccination with a reported effectiveness of somewhere in the range of 66-85% depending on age and level of health. As to whether vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus, that remains to be determined. For Arkansas, we continue to see a decline in the number of new daily infections, deaths, and hospitalizations. But for now, as recommended by the CDC and State officials, everyone needs to continue to wear a mask, wash our hands and social distance. It may not seem it, but through following the recommended precautions of masks, hand washing, and now COVID vaccines, there are brighter days coming.
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