To better understand how COVID19 vaccines work, it helps to first know the mechanisms our bodies use to fight illness. When germs, invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. Our immune system uses several methods to fight off such infections. Our Blood contains red blood cells, which carry oxygen to tissues and white blood cells which fight infection. Different types of white blood cells fight infection in different ways:
When a person is infected with the COVID-19 virus, it can take several days or weeks for their body to make and use all the germ-fighting tools needed to overcome the infection. After the infection, the body retains some T-lymphocytes, that go act quickly if the body encounters the same virus again. Experts are still learning how long these cells remember and protect a person against the virus that causes COVID-19.
How COVID-19 Vaccines Work
COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.
It typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after a vaccine is administered. This means that a person can be infected with COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection.
Types of COVID-19 Vaccines Under Development
As of the writing of this article there are two COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made using messenger RNA, or mRNA. Both options require two shots. The first shot starts building protection. A second shot a few weeks later is needed to get the most protection the vaccine has to offer.
Washington state is providing vaccinations in phases. To determine when you are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine you can use the Washington State Department of Health Phase Finder Tool. The Phase Finder tool is designed to help people in Washington find out if they are eligible for a COVID vaccine now or if not, sign up to be notified when they become eligible. It asks a series of questions related to the four phases of vaccine distribution (living situation, age, health conditions, risk factors, work situation and zip code) to inform eligibility. You can also view a map of vaccine locations in Washington.
Ty Strahl is the Spokane areas leading Certified Senior Advisor (CSA). Her job is to help navigate the many aspects of aging and to help seniors who are in transition to find the right solutions for their individual needs.