Short answer: Yes. I do believe that when you are able to get the vaccine, that you should. I may not be able to change any minds by writing this, but that’s ok. I understand that the decision is difficult, especially after a history-making year for the entire world, the conflicting news sources, and distrust of science and media by a large portion of Americans. After reading my opinion and experience of receiving the vaccine, I just ask that you consider it.
Although I am in my 20s, I am a pharmacy intern in a community pharmacy that is assisting in the distribution of the vaccine so I was able to get the COVID-19 vaccine long before many other college students. I received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine series in the month of January 2021.
To be fair, before being offered the vaccine, I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t some doubt in my mind. Questions I pondered included: was the vaccine rushed? What are the long-term effects? What does an mRNA vaccine do? Can I suffer from infertility after the vaccine?
Was the vaccine rushed?
Even just the name Operation WarpSpeed sounds pretty convincing that the whole plan was to be rushed as quickly as possible, but in reality no corners were cut and the study and approval of the vaccines was held up to the same standards as other vaccines. Due to the massive collective effort and funding available to researchers, these trials were able to accelerate a few of the steps involved in researching new vaccines. The US Department of Defense posted a graphic on their site that explains Operation WarpSpeed what steps in the research process could be sped up and how. They started to “create vaccine candidates” soon after finding a viral genome. Additionally, Phase III trials were conducted on 30,000 volunteers over 6 months. Then, the 12 month FDA approval process is sped up by supplying continuous efficacy and safety data on the Phase III trials.
How does a mRNA vaccine work?
The cool thing about the Pfizer vaccine (at least to me), is that it doesn’t contain an actual virus like many of our other current vaccines that contain a live or weakened virus. It contains mRNA that codes for a specific protein. The mRNA instructs your cells to make a spike protein that is the same protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Your body will recognize that this protein doesn’t belong and will launch an immune response against it. A part of the immune response in the generation of antibodies. Having these antibodies will help your body fight the virus if you do get in contact with it. The video attached at the bottom from Vox is really helpful in understanding how this vaccine works in the body.
What about infertility issues?
There is no evidence that the COVID vaccines can cause infertility. This is a quote from Pfizer’s website, “It has been incorrectly suggested that COVID-19 vaccines will cause infertility because of a very short amino acid sequence in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 that is partly shared with a protein in the placenta called syncytin-1. From a scientific perspective, the differences between the two sequences are quite significant, making it very unlikely our vaccine could generate a response that would harm the placenta.”
However, I ultimately decided that the benefits outweighed the potential risks. The vaccine would not only protect myself from a COVID-19 infection, but also my friends and family. Herd immunity occurs when enough of the population becomes immune and then the entire community, even those that are unable to get vaccinated, is protected from an infection. This is something to strive towards so that we can end this crazy pandemic. The bottom line for me, the vaccine was approved, so it is safe to use. If data had not shown that the vaccine was safe and efficacious, it would not have been approved by the FDA in the first place.
My experience with this vaccine was unlike other vaccines I remember getting. After the first dose, my arm was sore for about a day. This type of feeling isn’t abnormal for any vaccine. I didn’t have other side effects to the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I did, however, have a couple side effects to the second dose. Again, I had that arm soreness, and I also felt pretty under the weather. The day after the second dose, only lasting about a day, I had a fever, slight headache and I felt overall weak and tired. This is normal and a sign that my body was gaining immunity to SARS-CoV-2. After that weekend, I returned to normal, and I still feel great, especially with the knowledge that I am protected from this virus and I’m also helping my friends and family not get sick.