What is a vaccine? How do vaccines work? Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Authored by Jerry Liu, Growth PM for Nomad
January 14, 2021
Read Time:8 mins
There has been a lot of news around a potential vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, but it is all over the place and there are still several questions that need to be answered. What is a vaccine? How do vaccines work? Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? We do our best to summarize the information that is currently available.
If you are a digital nomad looking for other tips related to COVID-19, be sure to check out our article on navigating the pandemic!
Vaccines are injections given to people to teach the immune system how to combat different types of diseases, such as viruses. The teaching is done by injecting a material similar to the disease that the body reacts to, training it in case the real disease enters the body at a later point, similar to self-defense training in case one gets into a real fight.
There are several types, which may contain a weakened version of the virus (chicken pox, MMR), dead virus (whooping cough), a byproduct created by the virus (tetanus) or a fake material similar to the virus (hepatitis B). All current vaccines under development do not contain a live version of the virus. The latest updates are available on the CDC website. Extensive studies have shown no proof in risk of infection or health risks due to getting the vaccine.
Please see this article from the CDC on 8 important things you should know about the US COVID-19 vaccination program.
The first phase of the vaccine will be available to approximately 20 million Americans. The first two groups of people to receive the vaccine are health care workers at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19. There are around 21 million workers at the front lines battling the pandemic and account for an estimated 12% of cases. The second group are residents of long term care facilities, which total around 2 million and account for 40% of deaths from COVID-19. As of December 17, it is estimated 2.9 million doses have been distributed.
The next phase will target priority groups which include workers in critical industries, those at high risk against the virus due to underlying medical conditions and older members of the population, totalling over 100 million. They would each require 2 doses of the vaccine.
The third phase would be the remaining members of the public and should expect to start getting access as early as the Spring. Although ambitious, this would allow for most Americans to be vaccinated by June.
There are two vaccines currently authorized in the United States by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. They both use mRNA technology which can be developed faster but require lower temperatures. A third vaccine in the pipeline is by AstraZeneca-Oxford and uses a more traditional method similar to the common cold.
Firstly, it takes time for the vaccination to provide immunity. The vaccine currently require 2 doses 2 weeks apart. Furthermore, it may take 4-6 weeks to achieve high levels of immunity. You are still at risk during this period, and after the immunity will be close but not 100%. Non essential travel is not recommended even after getting the vaccine at this time.
It is important to note that scientists are also not certain how long immunity from the infection currently lasts. Additionally, you should continue to follow all the same public health recommendations, such as washing hands and maintaining physical distance.
Yes. Unfortunately, although the vaccine protects you from being sick and experiencing symptoms, you can still carry the living virus. This would mean you are contagious to others and should exhibit all the appropriate safety precautions. It will take time to finalize the trial and results but this will not be conclusive in the next year at least.