By Kaleb Vining
On March 17, the college will be giving faculty and staff their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Harold and Mary Ellen Deets Library. After waiting the full 28 days, they will then be able to get their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on April 14.
While there are currently three vaccines that the Centers have approved for Disease Control and Prevention, the college has chosen to give faculty and staff the Pfizer version rather than the Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
The most recently approved vaccine comes in the form of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen version. Rather than two doses, this vaccine only requires one shot but has a viral vector base rather than an mRNA base.
The CDC states that in viral vector vaccines, a gene unique to the virus being targeted is added to the viral vector. For COVID-19 vaccines, this gene codes for the spike protein, which is only found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2.
The vector is used to move this gene into a human cell. Once inside the cell, the viral vector uses this gene and the cell’s makeup to produce the spike protein and display it on its surface.
This then causes the individual’s immune system to produce antibodies to fight off this vector’s exposure. The immune system will then be ready to fight off the real thing if the individual contracts COVID-19.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are based on messenger RNA. According to the CDC, the mRNA enters human cells and instructs them to produce the “spike” protein found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Messenger RNA is transcribed from DNA, and then it goes out of the nucleus into the cell, and it’s used to make a protein,” said Tamara McEwen, associate professor of biology; chair, division of natural sciences.
McEwen worked with her Molecular Biology students during the Fall semester to study the vaccines, their development process and their effectiveness.
When they studied the vaccinations in the Fall semester, 60 possible candidates in the race were distributed to the people throughout the country. It was not until around November that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were approved for emergency distribution.
McEwen said, “Right about the time at the end of the class, in fact when they were making their group presentation, Pfizer and Moderna both had released their results of having about 95% efficacy with each of their vaccines.”
While typically people are concerned about the safety of the vaccination process, the college’s faculty and staff have been fully on board with this process.
Kaydee Riggs-Johnson, vice president for marketing & communications, said, “We’ve had a really high rate of faculty and staff sign up already.”
The most negative thing about the vaccines thus far has been the side effects.
Some people will have pain or swelling in the area that they get the vaccine. Others may have muscle aches, fever, fatigue and headaches. Some feel a combination of these side effects.
Some people can have these reactions after their first vaccination, while others might have them after their second.
“Again, those short-term side effects are a lot better than the alternative of becoming very ill with the coronavirus,” said Riggs-Johnson.
Many professors have been teaching virtually this semester to keep themselves and their students safe. The upcoming vaccinations will allow professors to return to face-to-face classes.
Reggie Jarrell, instructor of communication, said that he is 100% behind the vaccines as they are vital and essential to stay safe.
As of March 12, the CDC stated that the United States had had 532,466 deaths due to COVID-19. Only 11% of the country has been vaccinated, while 20% have received their first dose.
For more CDC information on COVID-19 vaccinations and statistics, click here.