The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was developed to prevent COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It has been approved for use in dozens of countries around the world and will likely soon be approved for use in the US. It has also become a key part of vaccinating the developing world, thanks to the company’s pledge to distribute three billion doses of the vaccine without taking a profit.
- How does the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine work?
- Is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe?
- How effective is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
- What are the side effects of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
- What is the difference between the AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines?
- Are there any interactions with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
- Does the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine stop the spread of COVID-19?
- Why did some countries suspend the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
- Who can get the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
1. How does the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine work?
As with most other vaccines, and like the other COVID-19 vaccines, the AstraZeneca vaccine works by teaching the immune system to recognize and fight off the coronavirus. This is achieved by using a weakened version of a different live virus with a viral vector. The virus has no threat of causing illness in humans because of the modification. The viral vector teaches the vaccinated person’s body to build cells to fight COVID-19. However, the AstraZeneca vaccine works differently than other COVID-19 vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Unlike other vaccines, the AstraZeneca vaccine does not use mRNA technology to store these instructions for building a spike protein. DNA delivers its instructions via a small electrical pulse, forcing the message into the cell. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the coronavirus if it later infects the body. For the average person, mRNA vs DNA may not mean much, but the DNA technology used in the AstraZeneca vaccine allows it to be stored and remain stable at much higher temperatures. This means that, unlike other vaccines, it will not need to remain frozen and can last up to six months when stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.
2. Is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Medical officials in the UK, the EU, and the WHO have declared that the AstraZeneca vaccine is both safe and effective. This is based on the clinical trials of the vaccine that involved tens of thousands of patients. During these trials, the vaccine was not found to cause any severe side effects. Furthermore, the potential benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the potential risks of developing COVID-19.
Drug regulators are monitoring the use of the vaccine and any adverse side effects that may occur. In the event of unexpected negative side effects, experts will quickly determine if there is a true safety concern. This was evidenced by the recent pause in the use of the vaccine after concerns were raised about potential issues surrounding blood clots. After further examination, regulators determined that there is no cause for concern, and administration of the vaccine was resumed.
3. How effective is the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
A recent trial conducted in the US found the AstraZeneca vaccine to be 79% effective in preventing symptomatic illness and 100% effective against severe cases and hospitalization. This study was conducted among over 30,000 patients and further confirmed that the vaccine does not lead to increased blood clots.
4. What are the side effects of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
Just like any other vaccine, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine produces a range of possible side effects. The list below includes some of the most common side effects but is not a complete list. Mild side effects typically subside after a few days, if they do not subside you should consult your doctor.
Common side effects:
- Tenderness or itching at the injection site
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
- Nausea or diarrhea
In some rare cases, patients can experience allergic reactions. Seek emergency medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms after receiving the vaccine.
- Skin rash
- Tightness in the throat or chest
- Difficulty talking or breathing
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
5. What is the difference between the AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines?
As mentioned briefly above, the AstraZeneca varies from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the way it transports genetic instructions. The implications that this variation carries separate the AstraZeneca vaccine in several ways. The first major difference is the storage and transport requirements. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines must be transported and stored at temperatures well below freezing, making it complicated to transport. The AstraZeneca vaccine only needs to be stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, the cost of the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 1/5 of the cost of the Pfizer Vaccine and 1/6 of the cost of the Moderna vaccine.
There are very notable differences between the vaccines. That said, the best vaccine is whichever one is available to you. Whether it’s the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or AstraZeneca vaccine, they have all been shown to be safe and effective.
6. Are there any interactions with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
Currently, there are no known interactions with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. However, it is not recommended to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine one week before or after receiving any other vaccine.
7. Does the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine stop the spread of COVID-19?
Most vaccines produced to prevent viral diseases also help in reducing the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, it is not currently known if the COVID-19 vaccine will reduce transmission. Therefore, even if you have received the vaccine, you should take you should still take preventative measures, such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distance, at least until more is known about the impact of vaccination on transmission.
8. Why did some countries suspend the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
Earlier this month countries such as Norway, Denmark, France, and Germany suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a suspected link to blood clotting. Even at the time of this suspension, authorities emphasized that it was strictly precautionary and that there was no cause for panic. Fortunately, there was no link found between the vaccine and blood clotting, so regular use has resumed. Additionally, the recent clinical trial in the US involving over thirty thousand participants found no evidence of the vaccine causing blood clotting.
Research into a possible link between the vaccine and rare blood clots (called CVST) is ongoing and health bodies are regularly reassessing the situation. At the time of writing, it is widely agreed that the benefits of the vaccine drastically outweigh any risk. While we strive to keep the information in this article up-to-date, please check your local health authority for the latest information and regulations.
9. Who can get the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use on people above the age of eighteen. The actual roll-out of the vaccine will depend on local supply and regulations that will vary for everyone. Typically, vaccines will be administered to higher-risk people first. In the case of COVID-19, this includes those with existing chronic illnesses that may increase their risk and people over the age of sixty-five.
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