COVID-19 vaccines are now widely available for our students, faculty, and staff. Several of the scientists here on campus have formed a Vaccine Roadshow where they come in person or on Zoom to Chapels, department meetings, club meetings, and classes to answer questions that people have about the vaccines.

This week, the Adams Center hosted a Vaccine Roadshow for a Q and A with two ACU faculty specializing in immunology and microbiology. The following questions were raised in this session and answered by our faculty experts.

 I have already had COVID. Should I still get a vaccine?

Each time your body is exposed to the virus or part of the virus through vaccination, your body’s immune response becomes stronger.  B and T cells are activated creating a stronger memory cell immune response which results in the production of not only more anti-viral antibodies, but ones that function better.  Yes, those who’ve had COVID should still receive the vaccine. 

 The vaccine is so new. How can I know it is safe?

The technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is new to us, but it is not new to the science community. The mRNA technology in these vaccines was developed after the SARS-CoV-1 in 2003. In the last 10 years, UT Austin researchers identified the spike protein. When research was published about COVID19, they had already done 10 years of work ready to jump on this new virus. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses decades-old technology. The speed at which scientists were able to develop such a robust vaccine is a testament to what we can accomplish when people come together and work together on a singular problem for the benefit of public health. 

SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 is a new virus. We don’t really know a lot about the virus and it seems like there have been recommendations over the past year that have changed. Does this mean scientists will learn more about the virus and then the vaccine will not be as relevant?

There is a difference between a public health response and vaccine science. There have been changes over the past year to public health recommendations as more has been learned about the virus itself. However, the science behind the vaccines is highly researched and has gone through so much testing. It is in phase 2 and 3 of the clinical trials. In the United States alone, 1 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

 Does the COVID19 vaccine cause fertility issues?

There is no credible evidence to this at all. No credible source has said this. It is simply a piece of misinformation propagated on the internet.

 Does the vaccine make you feel sick?

Many people who receive the vaccine feel symptoms that can mirror COVID symptoms for 24-48 hours. These symptoms are your body’s very smart immune response responding in a way that will help your body recognize the virus later. If, however, you experience symptoms for longer than this, get tested for COVID because you may have been exposed to the virus in the same window of time you received the vaccine. The vaccine cannot give you COVID, though.

 What about the other strains? Does the vaccine protect against those?

Vaccines are effective against other variants, but maybe not to the same extent as the original strain or the UK strain that is covered extremely well by current vaccines. There are over 12,000 variants, but only three of concern and those three are covered by the vaccines, just to a slightly lesser extent.

How long will it cover you?

We just don’t have good data about the immunity about this yet because it’s so new. Currently, there is data that immunity lasts at least six months. However, it is possible that immunity will last longer. We will know more about this as more data is reported. All of the vaccines produce a robust immune response of the B and T cells so that goes way beyond regular antibodies.

 What if a person is afraid of receiving the vaccine?

If speaking with someone who is fearful, ask questions to address the root of their fear. Once their fear is known, help the person find trusted sources to allay those fears.

 Are there populations who shouldn’t get vaccinated?

Check with your doctor or the CDC guidance.

 Which vaccine should I get?

Get whatever vaccine is available to you.

Why should a person receive the vaccine if they’re a younger person who is very healthy and doesn’t see the benefit for themselves, personally?

Choosing to vaccinate is a way to love and serve others. We don’t know who we will come in contact with on a daily basis. Many people contract the virus but don’t experience symptoms that would warrant concern, so they go about their daily lives unknowingly spreading the virus potentially to very vulnerable people. In many areas, but particularly with regard to this virus and vaccine, we must move away from an individualistic approach to an approach that looks at the community at large. Many of the public health responses in the past year have been to protect the most vulnerable among us and to keep hospitals from exceeding capacity. Medical facilities are beginning to be able to offer procedures that have been pushed back or canceled for over a year now. This is also important to our collective public health. The more people who are vaccinated moves us closer to being able to deal with COVID19 and its effects on individuals and communities and with other very important public health concerns.

 Contact Dr. Jennifer Huddleston to schedule the Vaccine Roadshow for your department, class, or gathering on campus.