The COVID-19 vaccine is here and has been for some months now. With a desire to “get back to normal,” as many say, millions of Americans have received at least the first dose of the two-dose vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer). Some have opted for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (called “Jansen,” which is the Swedish/Dutch form of the word “Johnson,” hence the company J&J is working with to manufacture the shot that bears its brand name). Janssen Pharmaceuticals is a Johnson & Johnson-owned company located in Beerse, Belgium. Most Americans know the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as J&J rather than Janssen, but at least you know the actual vaccine brand name if you see it somewhere.
I’ve had some talks with people I know over the past few weeks and months about the COVID-19 vaccine and whether or not they would or would not get it and why. What I have discovered, unfortunately, is that a lot of those in my circles that I have spoken with believe some things about the COVID-19 vaccine that are simply untrue and unsupported by the science. So in this post, I’d like to provide some accurate information on the COVID-19 vaccine so as to inform those who may not know where to go to find content worth reading or accepting. To be sure, there’s a lot of misinformation out on COVID. We here at The Essential Church want our readers to be knowledgeable of the vaccine. We believe that one cannot make an accurate decision about vaccination until he or she understands what the vaccine is and isn’t, as well as the risk he or she takes in getting vaccinated or remaining unvaccinated.
It is to the realm of knowledge regarding the COVID-19 vaccine that we turn. For those reading this months out, please keep in mind that clinical trials and other information in this article may prove to be insufficient in the days ahead. Simply put, the COVID-19 era is one of limbo at this point. More companies are likely to produce vaccines, so the company names mentioned here may prove insufficient within the next 6-9 months (and beyond). Also, the science may prove more rewarding toward the vaccinated. This article cannot cover all the content, but it is written to help those who only have this initial round of vaccines to choose from.
With that said, let’s talk about the COVID-19 vaccine and give it a fair shot in the details below.
What You Need To Know About The COVID-19 Vaccine
Four manufacturing companies
There are four companies manufacturing the vaccine, or at least four major companies: Pfizer (with BioNtech), Moderna, AstraZeneca/Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson. In the United States, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are the three most well-known. When you go to the doctor for the COVID-19 vaccine, chances are you will receive either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is in short supply at the moment (though circumstances could change), and the AstraZeneca is more common in Europe and Asia than in the United States. If you’re curious as to which vaccine you’ll receive, please feel free to call your local medical center or hospital and inquire before your visit. It doesn’t hurt to know which one you’re getting and to do a little research beforehand. Knowing this beforehand just may help to ease the nervousness of getting the vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine was the first vaccine granted emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 11, 2020.
Not all vaccines require two doses
This may come as a shock to some, but not all COVID-19 vaccines mandate two doses. To be sure, you’ll most likely encounter the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both requiring two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, does not, which means that those who get the J & J need only make one doctor’s visit to receive full vaccination. Yes, the J&J vaccine only has one dose, one appointment, and that’s it. Unfortunately, since the J&J vaccine is in short supply at the moment, those heading out to get the vaccine at this point in 2021 can expect two doses at two separate times, weeks apart.
Not all vaccines have the same ingredients
It’s easy to believe that all the vaccines utilize the same ingredients behind the making of their vaccines, but this isn’t true, either. You’ve likely heard that the vaccines utilize what’s called mRNA technology. “mRNA” stands for “Messenger RNA,” and it essentially allows vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna to create a vaccine without including traces of the virus itself. The mRNA technology only requires the use of the spike protein surrounding the virus, not the virus cells themselves, to immunize citizens against COVID-19. “Coronavirus” includes the root word “corona,” which refers to the shape of the spike protein. Under a microscope, COVID-19 looks like a bunch of tiny little “spiked” cells. The name “coronavirus” comes from the neat “spike/crown” feature. MRNA vaccine makers utilize genetic code without using the actual virus.
While mRNA is cool technology indeed, not all vaccines utilize it. Specifically, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not. The only thing to conclude from J&J’s decision to forgo mRNA is that it uses the traditional virus cells to produce antibodies. This is how traditional vaccines are made.
According to Time Magazine, the J&J vaccine contains a chimpanzee virus, “a modified adenovirus that causes cold-like symptoms in chimpanzees; the chimp virus serves as a vehicle for delivering genes coding for the COVId-19 virus’ spike protein.”
all vaccines bring side effects, though many appear temporary
Here’s some sigh of relief: all vaccines bring side effects, though many appear to be temporary. A recent study says as many as 25% of all adult Americans have been vaccinated, with President Biden having arrived at the over 100-million mark with regard to vaccines delivered into American arms. With those many millions of arms that have had COVID-19 vaccines injected into them, it goes without saying that for many, the side effects last a few days and then subside. Many millions of Americans haven’t had problems. Common side effects include fever, rash at the injection site, swelling at the injection site, muscle aches, chills, nausea. In severe cases, some patients can experience anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) and even liver malfunction and tragically, death. As of this week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is conducting a clinical trial to “better understand allergic reactions related to the Moderna and Pfizer” vaccines. My friend’s husband went for his vaccine (he had the Pfizer or the Moderna) and ended up suffering from anaphylaxis with a 3-4-day hospital stay. Doctors have since told him not to get the second dose of the vaccine.
In vaccine trials at the end of 2020 with Pfizer and Moderna (mRNA) vaccines, 10-15% of trial volunteers experienced “quite noticeable side effects” such as fever, chills, swollen arm, and so on. Medical experts advise those who receive the COVID-19 vaccine to take it easy for a day or two post-injection.
But that’s not to say that all COVID-19 vaccines are created equal. A new study shows that Modern patients exhibit more side effects than Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson patients. Five Johnson & Johnson patients have also shared their post-injection side effects, such as dizziness, fever, chills, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and fever, for those who want to know more. The Moderna vaccine in the United Kingdom is producing side effects such as Bell’s Palsy, facial swelling, and allergic reactions.
As said above, however, there are severe side effects for some from the vaccine. Though those severe side effects impact a small number of those who will be vaccinated, those severe side effects are to be taken seriously because life hangs in the balance. If it were you experiencing those severe side effects, you wouldn’t want them written off so quickly because they impact a small number of patients.
Are vaccines causing severe side effects?
This is a question on the minds of many who intend to get vaccinated in the coming future. And it is a question worth answering. Are the current COVID-19 vaccines causing severe side effects?
In one particular case, a 74-year-old from Virginia found himself with red rash all over his body and major swelling in his legs, ankles, and feet. He spent five days at VCU Medical Center in Virginia, where doctors determined that the J&J vaccine was the cause of his body’s reaction. “We ruled out all the viral infections, we ruled out COVID-19 itself, we made sure that his kidneys and liver was okay, and finally we came to the conclusion that it was the vaccine that he had received that was the cause,” said VCU Health Dermatology Specialist Dr. FNU Nutan.
One major or severe side effect noticed in women and patients under 30 who get their COVID-19 vaccine is blood clots, even in the sinuses and brain (called “cerebral venous sinus thrombosis” or CVST). A more formal term for this unfortunate side effect is Vaccine-Induced Prothrombotic Immune Thrombocytopenia or VIPIT. CVST or VIPIT is caused by the attachment of antibodies to blood platelets, with platelets being destroyed as a result. German scientists at the University of Greifswald say that “overactivation of platelets in the blood” is what is behind the cerebral blood clots. Blood clots have been a major side effect for AstraZeneca patients in Europe, particularly in countries such as Germany, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and even Canada, though all other vaccines from other makers are also producing them as well. Canada is issuing a blood clot warning label for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
While the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said there is no link between blood clot reports and the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that “the benefits outweigh the risks,” some authorities are saying otherwise. Pal Andre Holm, head of the Oslo National Hospital review team, says that “we have to stop speculating whether there is a link or not. All of these cases had these symptoms three to ten days after the AstraZeneca inoculation. We did not find any other triggering factor.”
There are deaths that some believe are vaccine-induced as well, though no medical reports have verified the vaccine as the cause. In one case, a 39-year-old mother of 1 in Utah died four days after receiving the Moderna vaccine. She was a surgical technician for plastic surgeons in Utah, and according to her family, “she was healthy – happy and active.” The 39-year-old woman went from having no preexisting conditions to having trouble urinating and eventually needed a liver transplant. Tragically, her kidneys and liver shut down and she died.
There are other cases regarding what are possible deaths due to post-injection side effects:
There is no conclusive evidence on the medical side to presume that these deaths are in fact, due to vaccination, but the timing of the injections, side effects within days, and eventual deaths are suspicious indeed.
breakthrough and immunity: how effective are the first round of Covid-19 vaccines?
Are COVID-19 vaccines effective against the virus that has taken the lives of over 500,000 Americans?
Well, the science suggests that, though there is some amount of protection against COVID, the protection isn’t very robust.
The reason pertains to a number of things. First, there’s the amount of immunity itself, which current research says is likely no greater than six months, though optimistic estimates say the vaccines could possibly grant immunity for a year. Flu vaccines are taken each year, and some have said that the COVID vaccines will operate in the same manner. Don’t expect the COVID-19 vaccines at this point to provide the immunity of the 10-year-long tetanus shot, for example.
The immunity of this current round of vaccines is being threatened by 1) mutating variants of the virus, such as the South Africa and UK variants, and 2) breakthrough cases of vaccinated people. First, new COVID-19 variants found in South Africa and the United Kingdom are a reminder that there will be multiple COVID-19 vaccines before science can pinpoint the final mutation of the virus and deliver a vaccine to treat it. Read the news and you’ll find that “third wave” and “fourth wave” COVID events are occurring across the world at this point. These waves will require scientists to create stronger vaccines, or “booster shots” to provide more robust protection against COVID-19.
Last but not least, there is the issue of breakthrough cases. What are breakthrough cases? Breakthrough cases refer to vaccinated people who contract COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated. Now, some may ask, “Isn’t the vaccine designed to prevent people from getting COVID? Shouldn’t fully-vaccinated people be immune to the virus for some time? Do breakthrough cases undermine the idea that the vaccine brings immunity?” These are valid questions to ask.
And breakthrough cases are occurring in a few states across the US. A new study done by Tel Aviv University and Israel’s largest health care provider, Clalit, shows that the South African COVID-19 variant is far stronger than the original COVID-19 variants. In fact, in the Israel study, the South African variant was found in the fully-vaccinated group nearly eight times more than in the unvaccinated group (5.4% to 0.7%). According to a Tel Aviv University representative, “We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group. This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection.”
What this means is that there are quite a few breakthrough cases of people who have received both doses of the vaccine (the J&J being the one-dose exception, as mentioned above) that find themselves infected with COVID afterward. A study conducted between December 16, 2020 and February 9, 2021 found that 379 out of 36,659 health care workers were diagnosed with COVID-19 after their two-dose vaccination. The Las Vegas Review Journal is now tracking breakthrough cases, as 58 Nevadans have come down with COVID-19 after full vaccination. As the Las Vegas Review notes, “Breakthrough cases are appearing in other states. News reports this week show at least 246 fully vaccinated Michigan residents were diagnosed with the virus — 11 were hospitalized and three died. In South Carolina, more than 140 breakthrough cases have been reported, and in Utah, health officials confirmed there were 97 cases among the 521,000 fully vaccinated Utahns. As of March 30, Washington state health officials had reported 102 cases, and 97 were reported in Idaho.”
In Oregon, 168 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated. According to the Oregon Health Authority, three breakthrough cases have resulted in death. Three of the 246 Michigan resident breakthrough cases have also ended tragically in death, according to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Lynn Sutfin.
Another breakthrough case concerns a nurse who was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in January. She flew to Mexico for her daughter’s senior class trip. At the end of her trip on March 27th, she started exhibiting symptoms. She is being made to quarantine despite full vaccination because she is showing symptoms of the disease and she tested positve. But even if she showed no symptoms, testing positive for COVID would still mandate quarantine.
The impact of these breakthrough cases on immunity is that it undermines the ultimate immunity of the COVID-19 vaccine. What this means is that, long-term, humans can expect booster shots to “boost” the current immunity of this initial round of vaccines. But, even with booster shots, there is little guarantee for now of an ideal situation where vaccine patients cannot contract COVID-19 or spread it to others.
Does the current vaccine prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms?
Breakthrough cases show us that the vaccine, whatever it is now and whatever it will be in the future, won’t prevent COVID-19 diagnoses, even post-vaccination. And we’ve seen above that vaccine patients can still suffer side effects that lead to hospitalization and even death from the current round of vaccines.
Scientific and medical authorities say that so many assume in vain that the COVID-19 vaccine grants absolute immunity to the virus. Even the CDC says per its website that Americans shouldn’t travel to Canada right now bc Canada is a COVID hotbed at this point — and fully vaccinated people can still contract and spread COVID to others. So, the next question comes down to this: “Does the vaccine prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms?”
That depends on whether you’re talking to the authorities and experts, or whether you’re reading about individual cases from those who are suffering post-vaccination. A new case of a man who is now in the hospital puts that statement in doubt. 52-year-old Francisco Cosme is now in critical condition with COVID-19 and pneumonia after getting vaccinated 5 weeks ago with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on March 6, 2021. On April 1st, Cosme’s daughter says that her father started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, chills, and cough. After going to a clinic and testing positive, Cosme was told to quarantine for ten days. He started getting worse last week with breathing difficulties and was rushed to the hospital.
Breathing difficulties are a severe symptom of COVID-19, as are pneumonia and subsequent hospitalization.
In another case, a teacher in Detroit who had been fully vaccinated tested positive for COVID-19 this past week and is now in the hospital. “Today I received notice that a vaccinated North teacher tested positive for COVID. All the students and families of the close contacts have been notified. I also received notice that three students at North have tested positive for COVID-19. None of these positive cases resulted in school based close contacts,” Grosse Point North High School Principal Kathryn Murray said in a letter to parents and students. Wayne County spokesman William Nowling says that there have been 31 breakthrough cases in the county so far.
A woman who attended a friend’s father’s wake in Washington State without a mask. She says that she received both doses of the Moderna vaccine, then went to the wake to support her friend who lost her father. While at the friend’s home, she hugged the friend’s relatives. She stayed at the home for 90 minutes and then left. And after leaving the home, contracted COVID-19 symptoms shortly thereafter. Additionally, three of the family members at the friend’s home after the wake have also tested positive. “You can still get it; you can probably still spread it. I want people to know it’s not over,” she told The Daily Mail.
breakthrough cases, efficacy rate, and antibody defense
How do these breakthrough cases and severe hospitalizations tie in to efficacy rate? Well, the efficacy rate of the various vaccines is what many medical people use to make the case that vaccines are reliable against COVID. You’ve likely heard that the Pfizer vaccine is at least 95% effective (current news showcases Pfizer’s vaccine as having a 97% efficacy rate). What does it mean for the vaccine to be effective and have such a high percentage rate?
Many people, on average, are confused about what efficacy rate is. Efficacy rate is not “if so many people get the vaccine, they’ll avoid illness.” It’s not saying that if 100 people get vaccinated, they have a 90% chance of not getting sick or a 10% chance of getting sick. Rather, the efficacy rate refers to the effectiveness of the vaccine itself: provided that 100 people all get the COVID-19 vaccine, only about 10 (no more) should get sick. Vaccine efficacy, therefore, isn’t 100%, even if everyone in the US (say, 400 million people) should get vaccinated. Since the Pfizer vaccine, for example, is 97% effective, 3% of those vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine could still end up getting COVID-19. This 3% of the population (if the population is 400 million) turns out to be 12 million people. 12 million fully vaccinated people can still end up contracting COVID-19. Whether the number is 12 million, 1.2 million, or 100, 000, the bottom line is that thousands of fully-vaccinated American citizens could still get sick. Though over 300 million will be fully vaccinated and protected, if they can still get COVID and spread COVID (remember, the vaccine isn’t 100% effective), even the 300 million fully-vaccinated citizens are still at risk.
What can explain this risk for even the fully vaccinated? Antibodies. Some fully-vaccinated individuals do not receive antibodies when getting the vaccine. But, then and again, not all COVID patients receive antibodies. Some of these COVID patients contract COVID a second time as a result. To be sure, current immunity estimates say the vaccines provide at least 3 months of immunity, perhaps as much as six months. But what this means is that, even after getting COVID, and even after the vaccine, fully vaccinated people are still susceptible to the virus — both after recovery and after vaccination.
In the absence of antibodies, though, a fully vaccinated person can also get sick. A new study done last week shows that not all blood cancer patients, for example, show antibodies post-vaccination. UPMC’s study demonstrated that, out of 70 volunteers, only 54% of vaccine patients’ blood showed antibodies while 46% did not. When it comes to the blood of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients, 77% showed no antibodies at all — a startling percentage when you consider that the vaccine has been targeted for the most immuno-compromised among us.
This is all the initial research on the first round of COVID-19 vaccines. We here at The Essential Church believe that vaccines, like OTC pills, will be vital to fighting the pandemic. And yet, we’re also science-driven in that we believe that vaccines are only useful when the science supports them. Face masks are supported, both in real-world testing and in science. This first round of vaccines, however, are a different story. We don’t encourage anyone to simply oppose vaccines; rather, we believe everyone should have access to adequate scientific information so that citizens can make up their own minds about the matter. Vaccines are a matter of moral conscience. Remember that, as with any medicines you take or injections placed into your body, you should learn a lot about the benefits, drawbacks, and risks before you agree to them.
Hopefully now, with some information and scientific research, you can now give the COVID-19 vaccine a fair shot.