Covid-19 Vaccine for Dummies

“Covid-19” by is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Pia Sharma

*a set of thorough answers from various WESS students explaining the biological function, administration, statistics, and side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine*


What is the vaccine(s) and how does it work?


There are three main vaccines that were made available to the general public at the end of 2020/start of 2021: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Both Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA to transfer genetic code to cells to create SARS-2 ‘spike’ proteins so that the immune system can trigger the production of antibodies that would then be able to fight infection if coronavirus entered the body. J&J on the other hand uses a weakened, more benign, and version of a virus. DNA, rather than RNA, of an adenovirus (a virus that can’t replicate, cause severe illness, or infection) is injected to generate the same immune system response: generating antibodies to resist the coronavirus. Because DNA is a more stable molecule than RNA, (since RNA is single stranded while DNA is double) the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored for much longer than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that are commonly thrown out at the end of the day due to expiration.


What happened with the J&J vaccine?

Six individuals experienced a very rare blood clot after taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the CDC and FDA has recommended a pause in the administration of the vaccine due to a possible link. These individuals were between the ages of 18 and 48 and this federal ‘suggestion’ was released April 13th.


Who is more likely to experience symptoms?


Women have been reported to have experienced significantly more and worse symptoms to all vaccines than men. Women experienced 77% of the Moderna-related vaccine symptoms and every individual that developed a blood clot after being administered with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were all women, and Rosemary Morgan, a research scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health states “From a biological perspective, women and girls produce sometimes twice as many infection-fighting antibodies from vaccines,” and this immune response might account for the severity of symptoms experienced by women. 


Are the Vaccines 100% effective?


Pfizer was proved to be 95% effective in trials, Moderna 94.1% (but 86.4% for those 65 and older), and Johnson & Johnson 72%. 


The Student Experience:


Did you experience any symptoms?

  • Catherine Auerbach: The only symptom I experienced was slight soreness in my arm for 1-2 days. I didn’t feel sick at all. However, I’ve only gotten my first shot, and I know that often people feel more sick after the second shot. 
  • Rory Ichelson: My arm hurt the night that I got my first shot but that was it. I haven’t gotten my second shot yet. 
  • Cooper Gomes: I did not experience any symptoms, just usual soreness after getting a shot.
  • Alexander Ecos: I did not experience symptoms. Only a slight discomfort/soreness in my left arm.
  • Pilar Gomes: No, my left arm is a little sore, but that is all for now. I have not gotten my second shot, but I heard the symptoms are worse for that. 
  • Eliana Cotter: I didn’t feel awesome the next day but I also haven’t slept well. I only got my first shot and that made my arm very sore, but only for a day. 
  • Eden Pruce: I did not experience any symptoms. The only thing I experienced was a swollen lymph node closest to the area where I got the vaccine in my arm but no pain. It just means the vaccine is doing its job.
  • Pia Sharma: I got both doses of the vaccine and after the first dose I was very tired and hungry, the second dose gave me a fever, chills, nausea, and migraines. I wasn’t able to leave my bed for a couple of days because I was in so much pain. 

Why did you decide to get the vaccine?

  • Catherine Auerbach: I decided to get the vaccine because I want the lowest likelihood of getting sick. 
  • Rory Ichelson: I trusted the testing process set for the COVID vaccines just as I trust the flu vaccine that I get every year. Getting the actual virus would probably feel a lot worse than the vaccine. 
  • Cooper Gomes: I chose to get the vaccine because I wanted to feel safe. 
  • Alexander Ecos: I decided to get the vaccine because I teach and babysit children and want to travel (safetly) to Greece. Although the vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting covid it reduces the likelihood of developing an illness and spreading it to others.
  • Pilar Gomes: I decided to get the vaccine because it seems like the next step to normalcy. I have to do my part as a person of society so that the more the population gets the vaccine,  the closer we are to the end of Covid. 
  • Eliana Cotter: I decided to get it because I have always gotten whatever vaccine available that I need for my safety and the safety of others. Also, I want to travel this summer and be at the beach and I want to make sure I don’t get or spread the virus. 
  • Eden Pruce: I decided to get the vaccine because I want to be able to stay safe and not get the virus again because I’ve had it before but not as severe.
  • Pia Sharma: I decided to get the vaccine because I think the vaccine is the only way to finally stop the spread of the virus. It’s becoming increasingly clear there aren’t enough responsible citizens of this country to fully reach herd immunity on our own without medical assistance.

What is something you wish you knew or want others to know before getting the vaccine?

  • Catherine Auerbach: I think it’s important for people to know that your first shot does NOT make you 100% immune, and you still need to social distance and wear a mask to keep yourself and others around you safe. While getting vaccinated is SUPER exciting, it is not a pass to immediately go out and party. You can still get the virus, and you can still pass it to others who aren’t yet vaccinated. 
  • Rory Ichelson: Keep listening to what Doctors and leaders are saying. Keep wearing your mask until you’re told you don’t have to. 
  • Cooper Gomes: I want people to know that even though my experience was easy, other people can react differently, so make sure to talk to your doctor or parent before getting vaccinated. 
  • Pilar Gomes: It was a very easy process for me, and it is very important as we head towards the future to a Covid free world. It starts with you! So go and sign up for a vaccine if you are eligible! 
  • Eliana Cotter: It is a very easy process just make sure you are following all the rules set by your vaccine provider. Also, please keep wearing your mask in public if you are near others that you don’t know or others that aren’t vaccinated!! 
  • Eden Pruce: I want others to know that allergic reactions are very rare and should not scare you away from getting the vaccine. Also, I would want people to not always believe conspiracy theorists because it’s not always 100% true. People should refrain from spreading false information about the vaccine. I also decided to get it to keep my friends and family safe because I am around them a lot.