Mighty Blog

Here’s what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

Children’s Minnesota experts teamed up to provide you with answers to all your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has shown excellent vaccine efficacy in phase III trials at 94 percent and studies have shown that it is safe to be used. This vaccine, just like any other vaccine we use, must be approved by the Federal Drug Association (FDA) before they are administered beyond trials.

Historically, most vaccines are developed one step at a time—development, approval, manufacturing then distribution. Because of the emergency situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic, this vaccine is going through these steps simultaneously, with manufacturing and FDA review happening at the same time. Doing these steps simultaneously is not a safety risk and no shortcuts have been taken in this process. If the vaccine is not approved by the FDA, it will not be distributed even though it was already manufactured.

Children's Minnesota employee giving the COVID-19 vaccine.

What are the potential side effects?

As with any vaccine, you may have an immune response after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Side effects, such as the ones listed below, are caused by an immune response as your body makes antibodies for the virus. They show that the vaccine is working! Potential side effects can include:

  • Mild-to-moderate arm soreness.
  • Pain.
  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever.

These usually occur the day of and/or after receiving the vaccine and no later than seven days after vaccination, and may last for 24 hours.

Can I get COVID-19 from getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Children's Minnesota employee giving the COVID-19 vaccine.

No. You can’t get COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccine because there are no live viruses or inactivated viruses in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The vaccine is made from synthetic mRNA or messenger genes that present the spike protein of the virus the dendritic cells. The message is to make enough of these proteins to trigger the T and B cell immune response and protection, but not enough to make you sick with COVID. The beauty of vaccines!

The mRNA delivers this limited and specific genetic material (code for a single virus spike protein, not all 25 virus proteins) so your body can identify and create an immune response. Once the message is sent to the cell, the mRNA is quickly dissolved by enzymes.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t get the vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has not been studied yet to be administered to babies or children under 16 years of age. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their provider to see if the vaccine is right for them.

COVID-19 disease in people with HIV and other immunocompromising conditions could be severe, so while the vaccine may not work as well in those with severe immune deficiency, the potential benefit is greater in getting vaccinated. Overall, the benefit of vaccination largely outweighs any risk!

Can mRNA get into your genes?

No. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine using a lipid nanoparticle to introduce stabilized mRNA that codes a portion of the COVID-19 spike protein leaving a message in the dendritic and muscle cell to make copies of the spike protein.

At no time does the mRNA enter the nucleus of the cell or interact with or alter your own DNA. Watch this video about how the vaccine works.

Where can I find more information about the COVID-19 vaccines?

There are many resources available for you to make an informed decision about whether or not you want to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Children's Minnesota employee giving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Alexandra Rothstein