The promising COVID-19 mRNA vaccine is unique compared to vaccines you may know.
While some vaccines—like the flu vaccine—use a whole virus or bacterium to help build immunity to pathogens, mRNA vaccines work differently.
Recombinant vaccine technology employs yeast or bacterial cells to make many copies of a particular viral or bacterial protein or sometimes a small amount of that protein.
mRNA vaccines bypass this step. They are chemically synthesized to simplify production and carry the information that enables cells to make the pathogen's proteins or protein fragments themselves. The immune system then responds to these proteins and develops the tools to react to future infections with the pathogen.
A few facts about the mRNA vaccine for your healthcare toolkit
mRNA vaccine technology is not new. And although mRNA vaccines were recently approved for human use, here are a few things to keep in mind as hundreds of millions of humans worldwide receive their first and second doses:
RNA is a notoriously fragile molecule, and delivering it successfully and ensuring enzymes within cells do not degrade it are critical challenges in vaccine development.
Chemical modifications during the manufacturing process improve the mRNA vaccine's stability.
Neither the Pfizer/BioNTech nor the Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccine cause COVID-19. They do not carry the virus or the full information to let cells make the SARS-CoV-2 virus, another name for COVID-19. You cannot get the infection from the vaccine.
mRNA does not linger in cells or move into the nucleus. Once mRNA has passed its instructions to a cell's protein-making machinery, enzymes called ribonucleases degrade the mRNA.
RNA cannot integrate into a vaccinated cell's DNA, so there is no risk of long-term genetic changes.
The different mRNA vaccine side effects
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines engineered by Pfizer and Moderna have undergone safety testing in human clinical trials. The U.S. FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer mRNA vaccine after reviewing the safety data from over 37,000 trial participants.
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Please note the FDA has reported that more people experienced side effects after the second dose than after the first dose, but there may be side effects after either dose:
Widespread side effects may affect one in 10 people and include pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.
Common side effects may affect up to one in 10 people and include redness or swelling at the injection site and nausea.
Uncommon side effects may affect up to one in 100 people and include enlarged lymph nodes or feeling unwell.
ShiftMed has teamed with various healthcare organizations to get the word out about the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to promote its acceptance among healthcare staff. Contact ShiftMed today for more information.