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Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus vaccine

If 2020 was the year of the coronavirus, 2021 seems to be the year of the vaccine. Many are rightfully happy and optimistic that we now finally have a science-backed weapon against the pandemic. Others, on the contrary, are skeptical and even doubtful of the vaccines even in the face of the alternative: more time living like last year with lockdowns, disease, and death.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t reasonable questions surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. In this Q&A we’ve selected some of the most important. The situation is rapidly unfolding and may change.

How many people have been vaccinated for COVID-19 so far?

More than 24 million people have received a coronavirus vaccine across the world at the time of this writing. So far, the leading countries are China (9 million), the US (6.5 million), and Israel (1.8 million), but mass vaccination efforts are ramping fast all over the world. Read full article

How long does COVID-19 vaccine immunity last?

Scientists don’t know for sure at this stage of the pandemic, but there is evidence suggesting that current vaccines could offer ample protection. Studies suggest that people who have recovered from previous infections with the coronavirus had ample antibodies against the virus even at a eight-month followup. Vaccines may offer protection over a longer period than natural immunity, but only time will tell since the vaccines have just been released. Read full article

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?

Every medication on the market will have some sort of clinical side effect associated with it, and vaccines are no exception. However, the side effects are very mild, and if they occur they generally dissipate within a few days. Some of the side effects may involve injection site reactions, such as pain, tenderness, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the arm of the injection, or general side effects, such as fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea and vomiting, and fever. Read full article

What’s exactly inside the coronavirus vaccine?

At this stage of the pandemic, there’s a handful of vaccines being administered to the population, each with its own unique formulation. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the only vaccines approved in the U.S. and the E.U., are both mRNA vaccines, meaning they contain a piece of genetic code that instructs cells to produce a harmless viral protein that primes the body against the virus when it encounters it in the real world. The vaccines also contain fats, salts, and sugar to stabilize the mRNA and help it enter the body effectively. Read the full article

How common are allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Exceedingly rare. Out of almost 2 million vaccine doses administered, there have only been 21 cases of severe allergic reactions and no fatalities, a CDC report shows. Read the full article

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for pregnant women?

Clinical trials from Pfizer and Moderna did not include pregnant or breastfeeding women, so officially there is no data suggesting it is safe or unsafe for them to receive a vaccine. However, there have been pregnant women who have been vaccinated in the United States and no adverse reaction has been reported thus far. Read the full article

Do I still need a vaccine even if I had COVID-19?

People who have been sick with COVID-19 are naturally protected from the virus, however, it is unclear how long this immunity lasts. Cases of reinfection, although rather rare, are possible and have been documented. There are also reasons to believe that vaccine immunity is more robust and may last longer than naturally-acquired immunity. Read the full article

Do I still need to wear a mask even if I had COVID-19?

Yes, for a number of reasons. First of all, it takes some time for vaccine-acquired immunity to reach its full protective effects after a person takes the vaccine. During these 4-5 weeks, you may still get infected and transmit the virus to others. It’s also impossible to tell which people in public have been given a vaccine or not, so it is likely that face masks will remain mandatory regardless of whether you’re immune to the virus or not. Read the full article

Does the vaccine still work if the virus mutates?

Yes, at least with the mutations we know of so far. According to recent research, at least Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is still just as effective against the mutations that have emerged in South Africa and the UK. Read the full article

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