What is COVID-19?
COVID (or COVID-19) is a severe viral disease that can affect the lungs as well as the vascular (or blood vessel) system and other organs such as the heart, kidneys, pancreas, etc.
COVID is caused by a coronavirus and is related to SARS and MERS, which caused deadly outbreaks across China and Northern Africa. Some coronaviruses cause the common cold. COVID’s name is derived from coronavirus (COVI) disease (D). The 19 denotes the year it first emerged–2019.
What are the risks of COVID-19?
People who get COVID can suffer a wide range of symptoms, from sniffles to difficulty breathing. Often, people notice that they cannot smell or taste anything and also have high fevers, exhaustion, and severe coughing.
Severe complications from COVID can include:
- chronic fatigue
- injury to organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
- septic shock
- blood clots
In younger patients, even mild COVID infection can rarely cause MIS-C, or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. This syndrome is caused by swelling of various parts of the body, including organs, skin, eyes, brain, and the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms include fever, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, headache, and confusion.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
All vaccines work in the same way: they present to your body proteins to teach your immune system to attack and get rid of these. Because these proteins appear to be similar to the actual virus, your body will remember how to attack them and be able to protect you from the real virus if it comes across it.
COVID vaccines bring these practice proteins into your body in one of two ways:
- mRNA Vaccines: mRNA is a set of instructions that teaches cells to make proteins. The vaccine uses mRNA that tells your body to make spike proteins that look just like the proteins from the outer part of a COVID virus. These proteins without the rest of the COVID virus cannot make you sick. But, your body can then recognize the shape of those proteins and protect you against the virus, which also carries proteins with the same shape.
- Viral Vector Vaccines: These vaccines use a harmless virus (vector) that cannot make you sick to act like a COVID virus. This antigen will enter a cell in your body and tell your body to make spike proteins that look just like those from a real COVID virus. These proteins without the real COVID virus cannot make you sick. But, your body can then recognize the shape of those proteins and protect you against the virus, which also carries proteins with the same shape.
What are the risks and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Nearly half the world’s population has received a COVID-19 vaccine, which gives us a lot of information about the true risks and benefits of vaccination.
Common side effects:
- swelling, redness, and pain where the vaccine was given
- muscle pain
It is very rare for someone to have a serious reaction to the vaccine, but it is possible to have a severe allergic reaction or, with one of the vaccines, a type of blood clotting problem called Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS). Common medications such as Tylenol or birth control are far more likely to give you similar reactions than a vaccine could.
Very rarely, some young adult males may have mild myocarditis (swelling of the heart). This usually goes away on its own.
What can I expect at a COVID-19 vaccine appointment?
A little research before your vaccine visit can go a long way to reducing your stress and concerns. Credible information helps ensure healthy choices and builds vaccine confidence.
COVID-19 Fact Sheet
Download and print our COVID-19 fact sheet to find out what to expect at your appointment.
Where can I get more information about the COVID-19 vaccine?
Learn more about COVID-19:
How do I know this information is credible?
We work for parents so we make sure that parent concerns are addressed using facts and science and our content is reviewed by experts who have spent their careers studying vaccines. Learn more about how we ensure we are bringing you the best information to help you make healthy choices for your family.
Inside the lab that invented the COVID-19 Vaccine
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