Understanding the COVID-19 Vaccine

We understand that many are concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine and that those concerns have raised a multitude of questions.   


At Tri-State Memorial Hospital, we encourage our employees and the community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Due to the overwhelming amount of inquiries around the vaccine, we want to ensure that we are a resource for education. It is essential that everyone has access to the knowledge needed to protect themselves and those around us.


How do vaccines work?

Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with the body’s natural defenses to develop immunity to disease safely. [1] In other words, they mimic infectious bacteria or viruses to stimulate our body’s
immune systems. Evidence shows that vaccines save millions of lives.


Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe? 

All vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, go through rigorous amounts of testing and evaluations through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The process to create a vaccine to fight against COVID-19 began in March 2020. Rather than eliminate steps to develop a vaccine, they coincided. [2] In November 2020, two vaccines received Emergency Use Authorizations, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.


Although both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are authorized for emergency use, they continue to be studied to assess their effectiveness under real-world conditions. Many factors contribute to whether a vaccine is effective outside of clinical trials, including underlying medical conditions, how the vaccine is stored, or even how patients are vaccinated. [3]


Tri-State Memorial Hospital follows all safety standards outlined by the federal and state government to ensure our patients’ safety when receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, including storing our vaccine at sub-zero temperatures.


How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

The COVID-19 vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that teaches our cells how to make a harmless piece of the “spike protein” found on the surface of SARS-CoV2. After the protein piece is made, it triggers an immune response inside our bodies. This produces antibodies to protect us from getting infected if the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters our bodies. 


The COVID-19 vaccine required two doses. Both are administered as a shot in the muscle of the upper arm. The second dose is given three weeks after the first. The first shot helps the immune system recognize the virus, and the second short strengthens the immune response. [4]


Why was the vaccine available so quickly?  Under normal circumstances, the process of

developing a vaccine can take up to 10-15 years. [5] During this global pandemic, researchers and federal partners combined their knowledge to quickly mobilize the COVID-19 vaccine development.


What are the side effects of the vaccine? 

The most common side effects include pain or swelling in the arm where you received your shot, fevers, chills, tiredness, and headache. [6] Side effects may feel like the flu, but that is normal and should go away in a few days. [7]


For now, Tri-State Memorial Hospital is still in Phase 1 of releasing the vaccine. It will take some time to manufacture and distribute vaccines to the public. As we know more, we will continue to inform the Lewis-Clark Valley regarding vaccine distribution.


It is crucial that everyone use the tools available to help stop this pandemic. For our community’s safety, continue to wear a mask, social distance of at least 6 feet, avoid crowds, and wash your hands often.