Older woman receives a vaccine in her arm

How the COVID-19 Vaccines Work to Protect You  

This blog will be updated as additional COVID-19 vaccines become available.  

Vaccination is essential to making progress in the COVID-19 pandemic. Two COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so far, and more are in development. Here’s a look at the technology behind the vaccines 

Messenger RNA Vaccines 

The first two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA are made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Both vaccines require two shots and use messenger RNA to trigger an immune response in the body.  

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause COVID-19, as they do not use a live virus. The messenger RNA, or mRNAteaches our bodies to make a protein to trigger an immune response 

Here’s how it works:  

  1. The mRNA vaccine is administered to the upper arm muscle 
  2. The mRNA encounters the body’s cells  
  3. The cells follow the mRNA’s instructions to produce a new protein piece  
  4. The cell destroys the mRNA instructions now that it has used them, and displays the protein piece on its surface  
  5. Our immune system recognizes that the new protein doesn’t belong on the outside of the cell and begins making antibodies  

The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is kept – so they do not affect or alter our DNA. While mRNA, is a new vaccine technology, it has been in development for years as scientists have studied the flu, Zika, rabies and cytomegalovirus. 

Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are known to cause side effects, including pain and swelling at the injection site, fever, chills, tiredness and headache. These side effects mean the vaccine is working and that your immune system is responding as intended.  

For daily updates on vaccine information and distribution in Michiganread more here: COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Should Know 

This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr. S. George Kipa, deputy chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

More from MIBluesPerspectives.com: 

Photo credit: Ridofranz

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *