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Drew: More about how Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines work

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

As more U.S. citizens view daily media reports about the two federal authorized vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the individuals in Phase One, regardless of the category, are getting more anxious. Again, this is why last week’s and this week’s article is focusing on the basics. What is it and how does it work?
Alabama is listed at the bottom for vaccine distribution. Yet in some counties such as Jefferson citizens in the Phase One 1b category have begun scheduling appointments and many have received their first of the two required doses of the vaccine. Individuals who fall under this Phase One 1b category include those 75 years and older, front line essential workers, first responders like law enforcement and firefighters, and persons working or living in congregate settings, including but not limited to, homeless shelters and group homes. Individuals in this group can schedule an appointment with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) using the COVID-19 Hotline Number 1-855-566-5333.
The recipient of the vaccination currently does not have a choice between the two federal authorized ones. They will be administered the one at their vaccination site. Last week’s article focused on the basics of the Pfizer-BioNTech. This week’s article will focus on the basics about the Moderna vaccine.
The Moderna is a mRNA vaccine. It requires two shots, one month (28 days) apart. The Moderna vaccine is recommended for people 18 years and older. The vaccine has no eggs, preservatives, or latex. It is administered in the muscle of the upper arm.
Clinical trial data shows it is about 94 percent effective after two doses. No serious safety concerns were found. This vaccine arrived in Alabama on December 21.
The most common side effects in the arm where the shot was given are pain, swelling and redness; where the most common side effects throughout the rest of your body were chills, tiredness, and a headache. These side effects usually start within a day or two of getting the vaccine. They might feel like flu symptoms and might even affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if you have had severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) or an immediate allergic reaction, even if it was not severe, after getting the first dose of the vaccine, you should not get another dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. An immediate allergic reaction means a reaction within four hours of getting vaccinated, including symptoms such as hives, swelling or wheezing (respiratory distress). This includes allergic reactions to polyethylene glycol (PEG) and polysorbate.
Polysorbate is not an ingredient in either of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines but is closely related to PEG, which is in the line vaccines. People who are allergic to PEG or polysorbate should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Consult your doctor.
It is important to note that the vaccine appeared to have a high effectiveness in clinical trials (efficacy) among people of diverse age, sex, race, and ethnicity categories and among persons with underlying medical conditions. Although few people in the clinical trials were admitted to the hospital, this happened less often in the people who received the Moderna vaccine compared to those who received the saline placebo. A majority of the people who participated in the trials (82 percent) were considered to have an occupational risk of exposure, with 25.4 percent of them being healthcare workers.
The demographic information from the clinical trials for the Moderna included the following:
• 74.4 percent white
• 2 percent Hispanic/Latino
• 9.7 percent African American
• 4.7 percent Asian
•<3 percent other races/ethnicities
Age and sex breakdown:
• 53.6 percent male
• 47.4 percent female
• 25.3 percent 65 years and older
Among the people who participated in the clinical trials, 22.3 percent had at least one high-risk condition, which included lung disease, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, or HIV infection; 4 percent of the participants had two or more high-risk conditions.
Note, the information contained in this article comes from either the CDC, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and other national/local medical and/or scientific organizations.
As our country continues its vaccine efforts, each of us must continue to practice COVID-19 safety measures to Keep an Eye on Safety for ourselves, families and others.