What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

The Mayo Clinic answers some of your most frequently asked questions

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As millions of Americans wait their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, many have questions. Those questions range from how effective the vaccines are to what kind of side effects recipients can expect to encounter.

To help answer those questions, the Mayo Clinic has put together a guide that explains what you need to know about the vaccine, including why it’s important to get vaccinated, how vaccines are developed and what sort of reactions are possible, among other topics.

How long does it take to develop a vaccine?

While the development of a vaccine can take years, researchers had a head start on COVID-19. That’s because it’s part of a family of viruses known as coronaviruses that includes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and there was existing research on those viruses, according to Mayo Clinic. Another reason for the vaccine’s accelerated development is the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March, paving the way for researchers to come up with a vaccine quickly.

Why should people get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Even though a vaccine might not prevent you from coming down with COVID-19, it’s intended to enhance your body’s ability to ward off the worst of the virus’s effects. If you are infected with COVID-19, being vaccinated could help keep serious illness at bay, according to Mayo Clinic, and it might also stave off any complications resulting from the illness. That’s why getting the vaccine is important.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

As the Mayo Clinic points out, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires vaccines to be proven both safe and effective before giving them approval. The FDA has already authorized the emergency use of both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, both of which are said to be more than 90 percent effective. In other words, at least nine of every 10 vaccine recipients will be protected from getting seriously sick if they’re infected with COVID-19. Still unclear is how long the protection afforded by the vaccines will last, and it’s not yet known if those who receive the vaccine will require any additional shots beyond the prescribed dosage.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

There have been no documented cases yet of anyone who’s received the COVID-19 vaccine experiencing serious side effects — only mild reactions have been reported, according to Mayo Clinic. The health system says in most cases, side effects surface sometime during the first few days after someone gets vaccinated and they’re short-lived. Reported side effects so far include: pain or swelling at the vaccination site, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain and the chills. It is considered normal to experience a reaction, though many people do not. That said, you should stay home if you have a fever.

How do people feel about it?

On Monday, many people were getting tested for the virus at the Regency testing site ahead of Christmas. Nicole Tribune and her son were in line. She works at a school and said another adult there had recently tested positive.

As someone who works in a school, she would be someone who is eligible to soon be vaccinated

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“I’m probably going to do that,” Tribune said. “I am a little bit nervous but I would rather be safe than sorry, especially with my kids.”

But there are some people who are adamant about not getting the vaccine. Lisa Depasquale was visiting Jacksonville from New York to see her mother.

“I am anti-vax,” she said. “This vaccine was not tested long enough.”

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