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Vaccine FAQ’s

COVID-19 Vaccine

Q: What is a vaccine? 

A: Vaccines stimulate the human body’s protective immune responses. If a person is infected with a pathogen, the immune system can quickly prevent the infection from spreading within the body and causing disease. In this way, vaccines mimic natural infection without causing the person to become sick.

Q: What is COVID-19? 

A: COVID-19 is an acute disease in humans caused by a coronavirus, which is characterized mainly by fever and cough and capable of progressing to severe symptoms and death, especially in older people and those with underlying health conditions. It was initially identified in China in 2019 and became pandemic in 2020.

Q: How do mRNA Vaccines Work? 

A: Many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies to trigger an immune response, not mRNA vaccines. Instead, mRNA vaccines use mRNA created in a laboratory to teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, protects us from getting infected if the virus enters our bodies.  The mRNA vaccine is a messenger RNA vaccine in which part of the virus’ genetic information (the mRNA) is given.

Q: What are the ingredients in COVID-19 vaccines? 

A: Vaccine ingredients vary by manufacturer. None of the vaccines contain eggs, gelatin, latex, or preservatives. All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals, such as iron, nickel, cobalt, lithium, and rare earth alloys. They are also free from manufactured products such as microelectronics, electrodes, carbon nanotubes, and nanowire semiconductors. None of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized or approved in the United States contain any live virus. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson do not contain eggs, preservatives, or latex.

RSV Vaccine

Q: What is a vaccine? 

A: Vaccines stimulate the human body’s protective immune responses. If a person is infected with a pathogen, the immune system can quickly prevent the infection from spreading within the body and causing disease. In this way, vaccines mimic natural infection without causing the person to become sick.

Q: What is a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)? What does RSV cause?  

A: RSV is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. Although it can affect anyone, RSV is generally considered the most frequent cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children. Each year an estimated 57,527 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized due to RSV infection in the United States. RSV infections can be dangerous for certain adults. Each year, it is estimated that more than 177,000 older adults are hospitalized and 14,000 of them die in the    United States due to RSV infection. Adults at highest risk for severe RSV infection include

  • Older adults, especially those 65 years and older
  • Adults with chronic heart or lung disease
  • Adults with weakened immune systems

As a result, RSV epidemics spread easily in households, daycare centers, and schools.  While RSV causes cold-like symptoms, it often progresses to LRTI (bronchiolitis and pneumonia) in infants, making RSV the leading cause of infant hospitalization.

Q: What type of vaccines are being studied for RSV?

A: Recently, researchers discovered a specific protein, called the F protein, in RSV’s structure. The F protein is how RSV infects cells. Now, researchers are using their knowledge of the F protein to develop an effective vaccine. Four RSV vaccines are currently being studied in late-stage clinical trials.

The vaccines use different methods to deliver a specific form of the F protein called preF to the body. The preF protein is viewed by your body as harmful, so your immune system makes antibodies against it. If you’re later exposed to RSV, your body will already have antibodies that recognize preF protein. This can help your immune system fight off the infection. These prompt vaccines cells in the body to start making preF protein and/or deliver preF protein directly.

Q: What are the ingredients of the RSV vaccine?

A: The current types of vaccines that are in research are particle-based vaccines, attenuated vaccines, mRNA vaccines, protein subunit vaccines, or vector-based vaccines. Some vaccines include certain parts of the genetic material (DNA) from the RSV virus. DNA is a natural substance found in all living organisms, including people, bacteria, and viruses.

When the vaccine is injected, it will tell the body to make small amounts of a protein naturally made by the RSV virus. The vaccine will then see if the body develops immune responses to the protein of the RSV virus. The mRNA vaccine is a messenger RNA vaccine in which part of the virus’ genetic information (the mRNA) is given. The mRNA is entirely made in a laboratory, and when injected, your body makes proteins similar to those found in RSV. The immune system recognizes this protein and signals your body to make antibodies to fight the virus if it enters the human body in the future.

Chikungunya Vaccine

Q: What is a vaccine?

A: Vaccines stimulate the human body’s protective immune responses. If a person is infected with a pathogen, the immune system can quickly prevent the infection from spreading within the body and causing disease. In this way, vaccines mimic natural infection without causing the person to become sick.

Q: What is Chikungunya?

A: Chikungunya is a rare viral infection transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is characterized by a rash, fever, and severe joint pain (arthralgias) that usually lasts for three to seven days. Chikungunya virus was first identified in Tanzania in 1952 and, for the following ~50 years, was isolated and caused occasional outbreaks in Africa and Asia.

Since 2004, chikungunya has spread rapidly and been identified in over 60 countries throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. There are three known types of chikungunya virus; however, all three types share characteristics that a single vaccine could target.

In addition, the virus is a relative newcomer to the Americas: Although chikungunya had previously been detected in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, local transmission of the virus was first detected in the Caribbean in 2013. Since then, the virus has spread throughout most Americas, including the United States.

Q: What studies have been conducted for the Chikungunya vaccine?

A: The chikungunya vaccine being tested, known as CHIKV VLP, contains virus-like particles (VLPs), which are manufactured in mammal cells. These VLPs contain chikungunya virus structural proteins, which the human immune system can learn to recognize. However, because they do not contain any genetic material from the virus, VLPs cannot replicate and cause chikungunya infection. However, they can generate potent immune responses.

Other vaccines using VLPS have previously been approved by the FDA, including hepatitis B and human papillomavirus vaccines. The new chikungunya VLP vaccine was developed by researchers and previously tested in a small Phase I trial. These results suggested that the vaccine was safe and would likely produce a potentially protective immune response to the chikungunya virus.

Influenza “Flu” Vaccine

Q: What is a vaccine?

A: Vaccines stimulate the human body’s protective immune responses. If a person is infected with a pathogen, the immune system can quickly prevent the infection from spreading within the body and causing disease. In this way, vaccines mimic natural infection without causing the person to become sick.

Q: What is Influenza?

A: Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat, and lungs. Influenza is commonly called the flu, but it’s not the same as stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Influenza viruses travel through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can inhale the droplets directly or pick up the germs from an object — such as a telephone or computer keyboard — and then transfer them to your eyes, nose, or mouth.

People with the virus are likely contagious from about a day before symptoms appear until about five days after they start. Children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for a slightly longer time.

Influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly. If you’ve had influenza in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that specific virus strain. If future influenza viruses are similar to those you’ve encountered before, either by having the disease or getting vaccinated, those antibodies may prevent infection or lessen its severity. But antibody levels may decline over time.

Q: Do I need the influenza “flu” vaccine?

A: Flu vaccination is especially important this season because the flu and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cause similar symptoms. Flu vaccination could reduce symptoms that might be confused with those caused by COVID-19. Preventing the flu and reducing the severity of flu illness and hospitalizations could also lessen the number of people needing to stay in the hospital.

Q: What are the ingredients in the influenza “flu” vaccine?

A: When you get a flu vaccine, you have two options:

      • Inactivated influenza vaccines contain flu viruses that have been killed, so they can’t cause the flu.
      • Live influenza vaccine nasal sprays contain a live but weakened form of the virus.

Many flu vaccines are made by growing the viruses inside fertilized chicken eggs. This means that they contain a small amount of egg protein.

Antibiotics: Neomycin, gentamicin, and other antibiotics are added to vaccines in minimal amounts. They stop bacteria from contaminating the vaccine and preservatives. A newer version of the vaccine, called Flucelvax, is grown in animal cells instead.

The flu vaccine will lower your likelihood of getting sick. And if you do catch the flu, it’s likely to be milder than if you weren’t vaccinated.

The vaccine also prevents serious flu-related complications like:

      • pneumonia
      • bronchitis
      • asthma attacks