How does the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine work?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine also contains a harmless piece of messenger RNA (mRNA). The COVID-19 mRNA teaches cells in the body how to create an immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19. This response helps protect you from getting sick with COVID-19 in the future.
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What exactly does the COVID-19 vaccine do to the body?

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness.
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How do mRNA COVID-19 vaccines work?

Currently vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, are the only authorized mRNA vaccines. These vaccines use mRNA that directs cells to produce copies of a protein on the outside of the coronavirus known as the “spike protein”.
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When does immunity start after the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine?

Data released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) show that COVID-19 protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was demonstrated in the clinical trials at about 14 days after the first shot. The FDA said some level of immunity may start sooner, but how much is not certain.
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How does the COVID-19 vaccine interact to create immunity?


Vaccines help prevent infection by preparing the body to fight foreign invaders (such as bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens). All vaccines introduce into the body a harmless piece of a particular bacteria or virus, triggering an immune response. Most vaccines contain a weakened or dead bacteria or virus.

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RNA Vaccines (mRNA Vaccine) - Basis of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, Animation



How does the COVID-19 vaccine help stop the spread of new strains?

As we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, we can stop the spread of the coronavirus. A reduction in transmission of the virus means fewer opportunities for it to mutate, which can help prevent the emergence of any other strains.
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How do vaccines work in general?

You encounter thousands of germs every day. While your immune system can fight most of them on its own, vaccines help it fight the disease-causing ones (pathogens) it can’t handle.

Vaccines familiarize your immune system — which makes antibodies to defend your body against harmful invaders — with a certain pathogen so that it will know what to do if you become infected with that pathogen in the future.

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How long does it take for antibodies to develop after exposure to COVID-19?


It can take days to weeks after an infection for your body to make antibodies.

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What is the duration of protection against COVID-19 when vaccinated?


Studies of the duration of protection of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness indicate that vaccine effectiveness decreases more against infection and symptomatic disease than against severe disease in the 6 months after full vaccination.

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How long does it take to develop immunity after a COVID-19 infection?

Although the immune correlates of protection are not fully understood, evidence indicates that antibody development following infection likely confers some degree of immunity from subsequent infection for at least 6 months.
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Is there a live virus in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines?

The mRNA vaccines do not contain any live virus. Instead, they work by teaching our cells to make a harmless piece of a “spike protein,” which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. After making the protein piece, cells display it on their surface.
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How long has the mRNA vaccine been around?

mRNA vaccines have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). As soon as the necessary information about the virus that causes COVID-19 was available, scientists began designing the mRNA instructions for cells to build the unique spike protein into an mRNA vaccine.
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Are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines safe?


mRNA vaccines are safe and effective.
mRNA vaccines have been held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States.

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Are long term side effects possible with COVID-19 vaccination?


Serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unusual following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination. The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks.

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Is it normal to feel sick after having the COVID-19 vaccine?

It is normal to feel sick after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
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Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?

No. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.
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How long does the protection from Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 booster vaccine last?


The most recent research from the CDC suggests that protection from the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines starts to fade around 4 months after a booster dose.

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At what point after infection with COVID-19 will there be enough antibodies to be detected in an antibody test?

After infection with the COVID-19 virus, it can take two to three weeks to develop enough antibodies to be detected in an antibody test, so it's important that you're not tested too soon.

Antibodies may be detected in your blood for several months or more after you recover from COVID-19.

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Is it possible to develop immunity to COVID-19 after being exposed?

In addition, the hope is that people who've been exposed to COVID-19 also develop an immunity to it. When you have immunity, your body can recognize and fight off the virus.

It's possible that people who've had COVID-19 can get sick again -- and maybe infect other people.

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Do people produce COVID-19 antibodies after infection?

Most people who've recovered from COVID-19 do make antibodies against the virus.
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Why don't you get sick after the COVID-19 vaccine?


But you don't actually get sick because your body is only exposed to a small portion of the virus and not the intact virus that can cause the disease. The antibodies against the spike protein remain in your body and are available and ready to protect you if you're exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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How does the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine work?


The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine also contains a piece of a modified virus that is not the virus that causes COVID-19. This modified virus is called the vector virus. The vector virus cannot reproduce itself, so it is harmless. This vector virus gives instructions to cells in the body to create an immune response.

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Could the COVID-19 vaccine protect me from spreading COVID-19?

Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccination also means you are less likely to spread the disease to others and increases your protection against new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
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Are the existing COVID-19 vaccines effective against new variants?


With each new variant, the COVID vaccines and their boosters remain our most powerful tool to fight all the strains of COVID-19 because the vaccines continue to significantly reduce the severity of the illness.

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Can vaccinated people spread COVID-19?

Some fully vaccinated people will still get COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. These are called vaccine breakthrough infections.

People with vaccine breakthrough infections may spread COVID-19 to others.

View complete answer on mayoclinic.org
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