Dealing with COVID-19 Vaccine Anxiety
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If you’re nervous about the COVID-19 vaccine, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the development of the various vaccines. After such a stressful year, it’s normal to be skeptical of the proposed solution.
Here are a few common questions about the vaccine to help you deal with the anxiety you feel.
Will You Get COVID-19 from the Vaccine?
This misconception is common for all types of vaccines, and COVID-19 is no exception. The confusion stems from the fact that vaccines are created using genetic material from the virus. This material cannot give you COVID-19, just like the chickenpox vaccine won’t give you chickenpox. However, it triggers your immune system to develop antibodies that will learn to fight the illness over time, eventually rendering you immune.
Your adaptive immune system creates antibodies to combat germs that it has previously come in contact with— for example, the flu. If you touch a door handle that someone with the flu has touched, the germs may get into your system. However, if you’ve come in contact with that germ before and gotten sick, your body will be ready to fight it better this time. Vaccines emulate that effect.
The medical experts at Healthtap wrote an article covering other illness concerns, like side effects and fears surrounding altered DNA.
How Were They Completed So Fast?
Another primary concern about the COVID-19 vaccine is that it was completed quickly, respective to other vaccinations, medicines, etc. So did they take shortcuts, did they rush? Not exactly.
This is a unique situation where the cause overpowered bureaucracy. Rather than vying for funding and appealing to the hierarchy, everyone was directed to work on this issue, no matter the cost. Furthermore, the work completed on these new vaccines is based on years of existing work, thanks to the previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS.
Another common concern is the other side effects of the vaccine that have yet to be uncovered. With some of the horror stories of medications from the past, it’s reasonable to feel anxious about the lasting effects. Fortunately, the anxiety and stress you’re feeling could have a positive impact, as the stress can help activate your immune system more effectively.
As with any vaccination, you might feel soreness or mild swelling at the injection site. Sometimes people feel achy or a little “off” as their immune system activates and gets to work. Another side effect many people are experiencing after getting the vaccine is hope and relief.
What’s with the Temperature Requirements?
The mRNA (genetic tissue) used in the vaccines is extremely sensitive to heat. Maybe leaving it out for an extended period won’t make it ineffective, but it could make it less effective, and why take the risk?
An article from NPR compared the effect to M&Ms. They have a candy coating, so they melt in your mouth, not in your hand. However, if you leave them in your hot car, they’re going to fall apart. The two vaccines use two different “candy coatings,” which gives them different temperature thresholds.
It’s possible that the vaccines can withstand warmer temperatures for longer periods, but figuring that out will take a lot more time and delay the distribution. For now, the priority is to ensure they’re as effective as possible.
What Should I Expect During the Vaccination?
The vaccination process is really simple. You’ll be expected to wear a mask and follow the sanitization and social distancing protocols. You’ll get a shot in your arm and receive an immunization record. Then, you receive a follow-up shot three to four weeks following the first. This approach is similar to getting a hepatitis vaccine before going on a tropical vacation.
The medical professional administering the vaccine will ask some questions and provide further information at that time.
When Will it Become Effective?
It’s important to note that getting the vaccine doesn’t mean you should run home and hug your Grandmother. It can take several weeks for your body to become fully immune. Even then, there are limited studies surrounding the asymptomatic transmission of the illness. In other words, you could give the virus to someone who isn’t immune without catching it yourself. That’s just one reason why it’s important to continue wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practice social distancing whenever possible.
You may be feeling anxiety about knowing when the vaccine becomes effective. It’s a valid concern, as you don’t want to put yourself and others at risk. The vaccine starts to become effective in the days after you receive it. However, it can take up to a month after the second shot to become fully immune. If you feel anxious about contracting COVID-19 during that period, continue following the same strategy for protecting yourself and others that you have already.
There’s also a lot of concern about how long the vaccine will last. Unfortunately, the data surrounding this information is limited. However, initial studies from the clinical trials indicate that immunity appears to be ongoing. It’s not yet known whether booster shots will be needed in the future to maintain immunity over time.
The key thing to focus on right now is getting as many people as possible to get the vaccine to promote herd immunity. The more people who have the vaccine, the better the likelihood that we’ll be able to eradicate this disease and get back to some semblance of normal.
The Road Ahead
The past year has been exhausting, and there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. However, patience and cooperation are necessary to see this crazy journey through to completion. It could still be a couple of years before we achieve herd immunity and eradicate this virus.
Take some time to research peer-reviewed articles and browse the library of credible information from regulatory bodies. Remind people who worry about microchips that their phone already has GPS and take your advice from people with the relevant education and experience to back up their claims. Never hesitate to unplug from social media or take a step away from your anxiety triggers.
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