I am content already to have received my two doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. I understand there are differing opinions on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. There are also a number of myths circulating. I think it’s valuable for individuals to share their own specific post-vaccine experiences, but, first, let’s tackle some of the pervasive myths.
First, the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine does not cause anyone to have the virus. Unlike the influenza vaccine, this one does not even contain the actual dead virus. This vaccine works on the basis of messenger RNA (mRNA). These types of vaccines prompt the body’s cells to produce a protein that is part of the virus, and thus, the immune system responds by attempting to fight it off and hopefully produces antibodies.
And, no, the vaccine does not change anyone’s DNA. According to Johns Hopkins University (JHU), “The messenger RNA from two of the first types of COVID-19 vaccines does enter cells, but not the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides. The mRNA does its job to cause the cell to make protein to stimulate the immune system, and then it quickly breaks down – without affecting your DNA.”
One of the most widely circulating myths about the vaccine regards infertility. The false reports about this idea began, according to JHU, when a false report circulated on social media that the vaccine fights syncytin-1, the protein that helps the placenta grow and attach. However, the protein connected with the virus is an entirely different protein than the one connected with pregnancy.
A number of people may be hesitant because they feel that the development and implementation of the vaccine seemed rushed. However, the methodologies utilized to develop both Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were, according to Mayo Clinic, already developed; no testing steps were skipped but were conducted on an overlapping schedule to speed production; mRNA development is faster than traditional approaches; social media facilitated the rapid communication and procurement of volunteers for trials and studies; and, due to the high contagion of the virus, it was easy to tell quickly whether the vaccine was working in study volunteers.
Others may fear potentially dangerous side effects of the vaccine. Yes, one may indeed suffer mild side effects, but none have been dangerous or long-lived, according to JHU. Those with allergies to other vaccines or medication or who already use Epi-pens may need to consult their physicians first, but most people will experience only soreness at the injection site. Some will experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, as I did, especially with my first shot. Of course, such side effects offer more definitive evidence that the vaccine is creating an immune response, the desired response.
On the afternoon of Saturday, January 2, I joined one of two car lines of McNairy County teachers at the local health department in order to receive the first injection in Tennessee’s 1b phase to vaccinate teachers. My mother joined me as well, as she was included in the first age-based recipient phase of 75+ residents in Tennessee. The process was efficient, and we were finished within an hour, including the 15-minute wait for a potential reaction afterward.
That evening, sometime just before 10 p.m., I began feeling ill, and my temperature was between 99 and 100. I was also achy. Sometime in the night, between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, I had chills, and apparently, my fever rose. Sunday left me with a 101-degree fever, achy muscles, and a scratchy throat. I hardly left the bed all day. On Monday, I returned to the high school classroom for my first day with students after the holidays. By that evening, I was still mildly febrile, and I did not return to feeling completely normal until about Wednesday.
I dreaded my second Moderna dose, intended to be given 28 days after the initial inoculation. I returned to the same spot with my mother, and we received our vaccines on the morning of Saturday, January 30. Almost immediately thereafter, I began a six-hour regimen of pain medication, and by that evening, I was still feeling achy and tired. However, I had no fever.
By Sunday morning, I remained achy and, on this second round, so sleepy. I spent a few hours Sunday afternoon napping, and by Monday morning, I felt much better, except for a few headaches in the next few days, which may or may not have been related to the vaccination.
For those who have not yet been fortunate enough to receive the vaccine or are still indecisive, the day or two of side effects are worth the protection. Trust me; I’ve had the virus and also looked after someone who suffered from COVID pneumonia.
Does getting the vaccination eliminate the need for protections such as masking and social distancing? For now, the answer is not yet – until more people get vaccinated – because those of us who have received the vaccine may still be able to carry and possibly asymptomatically spread the virus, scientists hypothesize. We still have a little time to go. Until then, my friends, stay precautious and vigilant in the midst of this brutal pandemic.
Daily Corinthian columnist Stacy Jones teaches English at McNairy Central High School and as an adjunct instructor at UT-Martin. She is pursuing an Ed.S. degree in Educational Leadership through Lipscomb University in Nashville. She enjoys downtown Corinth.