The COVID-19 vaccine is here in Nevada.
However, with only a small number of doses initially available, not all Nevadans are yet eligible to receive the vaccine. Below, we have answered as many of your questions as possible about the vaccine, from “Where do I fall on the state’s priority list?” to “How will I know that I’m eligible?” to “How do I know the vaccine is safe?” and “Where will I go to get the vaccine?”
All answers below are based on interviews with state and local immunization officials and health care workers and publicly available resources from the state of Nevada, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
This article will be updated as more information on the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. It was last updated on: Monday, Jan. 25, 2021 at 11:47 a.m.
For more on how many doses of the vaccine Nevada has administered, please visit our COVID-19 data page.
What’s the plan for vaccinating Nevadans?
The order in which Nevadans will receive the COVID-19 vaccine is determined by the state’s vaccination playbook. The third version of the playbook, the most recent, was released on Jan. 11. You can find it here.
Under the state’s plan, doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be administered in two “lanes” simultaneously. One lane is for frontline and essential workforce, while the other is for the general population. This will allow the state to ensure that it is vaccinating both high-priority sectors of the workforce that have frequent and sustained exposure to the public while also vaccinating high-priority sectors of the general population who are most at risk for falling seriously ill from COVID-19.
When will health care workers be vaccinated?
Because health care workers already started to be vaccinated under what was known as “Tier 1” or “Phase 1a” before the state released its new lane-based approach in mid-January, they are not included in the workforce lane under the current version of the state’s vaccination playbook. However, all counties started vaccinating health care workers in December and, even as they continue to vaccinate other groups, will continue to vaccinate health care workers who may not have already gotten vaccinated.
The health care worker category includes paid and non-paid clinical and nonclinical employees, volunteers, interns and others. The general categories of health care workers are as follows:
- General medical and surgical hospitals
- Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals
- Emergency medical services personnel
- Frontline public health workforce
- Lab workers
- Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians
- Outpatient and home health providers
Who will be vaccinated after health care workers?
At the top of the frontline and essential workforce lane are people who work in public safety and security: Department of Corrections staff; law enforcement, public safety and national security; and state and local emergency operations managers and staff.
That workforce group will be followed by workers who participate in frontline community support. At the top of that list are those who work in education, including both pre-K and K-12, and childcare in public, private and charter school settings.
At the same time as the state is vaccinating the top of the workforce, it will also be vaccinating the top of the general population tier, starting with Nevadans 70 years and older. Once that age group has been vaccinated, the state will vaccinate those 65-69. See the graphic below to find where in the state’s vaccination plan you fall:
Note: The graphic looks best on desktop, as the question mark symbols may show up in slightly the wrong spot on mobile.
For more information about whether your place of employment falls under one of these categories, please see pages 4-8 of this summary document from the state or hover over the question mark symbols in the graphic above.
Remember: Under the lane-based system, your county could be focusing on vaccinating one occupational group, for instance, K-12 workers, and one general population group, such as those 70 and older, at the same time. Counties will move through the lanes in order.
Which groups are currently being vaccinated?
Counties across Nevada are progressing through the vaccination lanes at different rates. We will keep the below information updated as often as possible. See the above graphic for fuller descriptions of each group being vaccinated.
- General medical and surgical hospitals: All counties
- Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals: All counties
- Emergency medical services personnel: All counties
- Frontline public health workforce: All counties
- Lab workers: All counties
- Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians: All counties
- Outpatient and home health providers: All counties
- Nevada Department of Corrections staff:
- Carson, Churchill, Clark, Douglas, Elko, Lyon, Storey, Washoe
- Law enforcement, public safety, and national security:
- Carson, Churchill, Clark, Douglas, Elko, Lyon, Storey, Washoe
- State and local emergency operations managers and staff:
- Carson, Churchill, Clark, Douglas, Elko, Lyon, Storey, Washoe
- Education (pre-K and K-12) and childcare in public, private and charter school settings:
- Carson, Churchill, Clark, Douglas, Elko, Lyon, Storey, Washoe
- Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) frontline educators, staff and students:
- Carson, Clark, Douglas, Elko, Lyon, Storey, Washoe
- Community support frontline staff (i.e. frontline workers who support food, shelter, court/legal and social services and other necessities of life for needy groups and individuals):
- Clark, Elko
- Continuity of governance (state and local)
- Clark, Elko
- Essential public transportation
- Elko, White Pine
- Remaining essential public health workforce
- Mortuary services
- Utilities and essential retail workforce:
- White Pine
- Seniors 70 and older:
- Carson, Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Esmeralda, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Storey
The above information is complete for Churchill, Clark, Douglas, Elko, Lyon, Storey and Washoe counties and Carson City. Information may be incomplete or missing for other counties.
See the "When will elderly people be vaccinated?" question below for more information about how to sign up if you are an elderly Nevadan.
Immunize Nevada, a nonprofit organization that is working with the state on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, has released a county-specific COVID-19 page (which you can find here) with the latest information on which groups are being vaccinated in each county. Officials have said they plan to keep the page updated with the latest information on the status of vaccinations in each county.
How do counties decide when it’s time to vaccinate the next group?
Currently, each priority group within a county is allocated vaccines equivalent to 80 percent of the total group size before moving onto the next priority group. For instance, a county will be allocated 80 percent of the doses needed to vaccinate acute care facility staff before groups further down the list are given an allocation.
However, if not enough people sign up to receive the vaccine within the current group to match the county’s allocation for the week, counties are given the flexibility to start vaccinating the next group. The priority list is intended to give counties guidance about in what order they should be vaccinating individuals.
When will elderly people be vaccinated?
As noted above, Nevadans aged 70 and older are at the top of the “general population” lane in the state’s vaccination plan. Most, if not all, counties are now offering appointments for their elderly residents, either through their local health department or other local health providers.
In Clark County:
- Southern Nevada Health District is scheduling appointments for those 70 and older here. Appointments may be full when you click the link, so people are advised to keep checking back as more appointments become available.
- UMC is scheduling appointments for those 70 and older here. Those needing assistance scheduling appointments are urged to call (702) 383-2619.
- North Las Vegas is accepting pre-registration for appointments from city residents 70 and older here. starting Jan. 13 through the evening of Jan. 15, according to the Las Vegas-Review Journal. Those needing assistance can call (704) 342-8417. Appointments will begin starting Jan. 19 and will be awarded to eligible residents who pre-registered at random.
- The city of Henderson is scheduling appointments for those 70 and older to get vaccinated at the Sun City Anthem Community Center here, though as of Jan. 22, all appointments are full and those scheduled for early February had been canceled because of limited vaccine supply.
- Smith's and Walgreens are now vaccinating those 70 and older in Clark County. Link to sign up at Smith's here and Walgreens here.
- Boulder City Fire and Boulder City Hospital are now vaccinating those 70 and older. Residents must call Boulder City Parks and Recreation at (702) 293-9256 Monday through Thursday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to make an appointment. More information here.
In Washoe County:
- Renown Health is scheduling appointments for those 70 and older. Visit this link for more information about how to set up a Renown MyChart account, find out if your tier is eligible, and schedule an appointment.
- St. Mary's Health Network was scheduling appointments for those 70 and older here, though as of Jan. 25, no appointments appear to be available.
- Smith's and Walgreens are now vaccinating those 70 and older in Washoe County. Link to sign up at Smith's here and Walgreens here.
- The VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System is offering vaccines to veterans age 75 and older. Those eligible can call (775) 786-7200 to get scheduled. Those who aren’t yet eligible can sign up here to receive information about vaccines in the future.
- The Washoe County Health District is asking people 65 years or older to fill out this form to sign up for a waiting list to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The health district strongly urges people to fill the form out online, though people can also call (775) 328-2427 to sign up. People will be contacted at random from the list to schedule appointments as doses of the vaccine become available, starting with the 70 and older population. The health district notes that its vaccination opportunity is separate from the ones being offered by Renown and St. Mary's and that people who are eligible should sign up for a vaccination through whatever avenue becomes available to them soonest.
- As of Jan. 25, the Washoe County Health District was focusing on vaccinating K-12, child care and higher education workers while other community groups, such as Renown, focus on vaccinating seniors.
In the Quad Counties, which includes Carson City and Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties:
- Carson City Health and Human Services is signing those 70 and older up for vaccination appointments here. Proof of residency and age will be required at the time of vaccination. Other documentation of current address and date of birth will be accepted if you don't have a driver's license. Those who have questions or need help scheduling can call the Quad County hotline at (775) 434-1988.
- Smith's and Walgreens are now vaccinating those 70 and older in Carson City, Douglas County and Lyon County. Link to sign up at Smith's here and Walgreens here.
In Churchill County:
- Residents 70 and older can schedule an appointment with Banner Churchill Community Hospital Clinic weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. by calling (775) 867-7740. More information here.
- Walgreens is now vaccinating those 70 and older in Churchill County. Link to sign up at Walgreens here.
In Elko County:
- The Elko Senior Center is helping to coordinate vaccine administration for those 70 and older, as of Jan. 13. People who fall into that age group are urged to contact the senior center at (775) 738-3030 to pre-register. The first clinic is scheduled for Jan. 22, but the number of doses available is limited. Additional dates may be scheduled at the senior center.
- Smith's is now vaccinating those 70 and older in Elko County. Link to sign up at Smith's here.
- Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital is vaccinating those 70 and older, in addition to essential workers. Information here.
- Seniors 70 and older and essential workers can receive the vaccine at a point of distribution event at the Elko Convention Center on Jan. 29 and 30. Register here.
In Esmeralda County, the Tonopah Raley's at 1201 Main Street is taking appointments for those 70 and older. Call (775) 482-6711 to schedule your appointment.
In Mineral County, Safeway is vaccinating those 70 and older at 1095 Hwy 95 in Hawthorne. Sign up online here or call (775) 945-3045 for more information.
In Nye County:
- Smith's and Walgreens are now vaccinating those 70 and older. Link to sign up at Smith's here and Walgreens here.
- The Tonopah Raley's at 1201 Main Street is taking appointments for those 70 and older. Call (775) 482-6711 to schedule your appointment.
In White Pine County, Economy Drug is vaccinating those 70 and older as of Jan. 15. You must call (775) 289-4929 to make an appointment. Appointment are required to receive the vaccine.
Note: The state of Nevada continues to receive a small allocation of doses weekly from the federal government. That means that even if your county is offering vaccinations to those 70 and older, you may not immediately be able to get vaccinated, though new vaccination slots may become available. You also may experience difficulties accessing websites to schedule vaccination because of a high number of people trying to access the website at once.
When will workers on the Strip get vaccinated?
Strip workers fall under the “frontline commerce and service industries” group within the workforce lane, specifically under the “food service and hospitality” category.
I am able to work from home, but I fall under one of the priority essential workforce tiers. Can I get vaccinated?
The state’s vaccination playbook says that people who can work remotely or social distance while performing work duties are not recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the initial prioritized rollouts, even if their workforce group is prioritized for vaccination.
When will people with pre-existing conditions get vaccinated? What conditions count?
Nevadans under the age of 65 with pre-existing conditions will be vaccinated after elderly Nevadans have been vaccinated. At the same time, individuals with disabilities and those with homelessness will also be vaccinated.
“What’s really important is we do recognize those individuals with disabilities and a lot of high-risk conditions that may not be specifically outlined by CDC, so we’re really trying to support that population as well,” said Candice McDaniel, health bureau chief in the Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness.
Pre-existing conditions that qualify you to receive the vaccine early are:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis and other chronic lung diseases
- Down syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary heart disease or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index, BMI, of 30-39) and severe obesity (BMI of 40 or more)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
For more detailed definitions of these diseases, please view page 9 of this document or hover over the question mark symbols in the graphic in the “Who will be vaccinated after health care workers?” question. The state’s list is based on guidance from the CDC, which you can view here, and is subject to change.
State officials have said the list of pre-existing conditions is non-exhaustive, in that it "only includes conditions with sufficient evidence to draw conclusions" and may not include every condition that might increase one's risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. The list, they said, was created to help providers offer the best care to their patients and to inform individuals about their level of risk.
"Individuals with any underlying medical condition (including those conditions that are NOT on the current list) should consult with their health care providers about personal risk factors and circumstances to determine whether extra precautions are warranted," Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Shannon Litz said in an email.
How are vaccines being distributed statewide?
As noted above, vaccine distribution is happening regionally, which means that doses are generally delivered to the area in which they are going to be used. Counties are likely to move through the vaccination lanes at different paces, depending on how quickly they’ve been able to vaccinate each segment of the population.
“We want to meet the individual needs of a community, it’s really important, and they know their communities best,” McDaniel said. “When we look at this patchwork and the reality, people are going to be at varying places of the structure.”
The vaccine rollout has, so far, been slowest in Clark County, which state and county officials have attributed to the heavy lift of distributing the vaccine in the state’s largest county. State officials are working to strategize how to best support the vaccination effort in Clark County.
Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District, in a Facebook Live with Rep. Susie Lee on Jan. 12 announced that Clark County would be opening a “mega” vaccination site at Cashman Center by Jan. 14 or 15 that will administer between 3,000 and 4,000 doses a day of the vaccine. He said that in the following one or two weeks, the health district planned to move to the Las Vegas Convention Center to open another “mega” vaccination site, where they will be able to administer about 4,000 vaccines a day.
Between those locations and other existing locations, he anticipated Clark County would be able to administer between 40,000 and 45,000 vaccinations a week.
“Some counties are going to be moving at a little different timeline than others,” said Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada. “I think that’s definitely an important point for people to note is to be sure they’re following what’s happening at their local county level.”
Again, for more on which groups are currently being vaccinated in Nevada, please visit this page, which Immunize Nevada officials plan to keep updated as more information becomes available about who is being vaccinated in each county. The Nevada Independent also plans to keep this information updated under the “Which groups are currently being vaccinated?” question above.
How will I know when it’s my turn to get vaccinated?
If you fall into one of the groups in the frontline and essential workforce lane, you can expect to hear from your employer with instructions about if you qualify to get vaccinated, when it is your turn to get vaccinated and where to go to receive your vaccine.
If you fall into the general population lane, you can expect to hear that it’s your turn to receive the vaccine through a public awareness campaign. You also may receive communication from your primary care doctor, your local pharmacy or a health care network that you are a part of.
Do I need to sign up now to secure my place in line to get vaccinated?
There is no official sign up list for the vaccine if your group is not currently being vaccinated. Health officials strongly urge you not to contact your local health department asking when it is your turn to be vaccinated, as they are getting inundated with questions, slowing down their ability to perform essential public health functions.
However, you can fill out this vaccine interest form that is being collected by the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health. You can expect to receive some sort of communication from state officials or from Immunize Nevada about when it’s your turn to be vaccinated.
If you live in Washoe County, you can sign up for the Washoe County Health District's vaccine updates here.
If you live in Elko County, you can fill out the county's COVID-19 vaccine interest form here.
If you live in Nye County, you can fill out the county's vaccine interest form here.
If you are a veteran, you can fill out this interest form through the VA here.
State officials are also urging people to take this time to get educated about the vaccine, including through Immunize Nevada’s website.
“What I would say is patience is key,” McDaniel said. “We’re not going to forget anybody. But we do want to build that education and that confidence.”
Dr. Andrew Pasternak, a family practice doctor in Reno and president-elect of the Nevada State Medical Association, is also urging people to get involved in the state’s vaccination operation through the Battle Born Medical Corps, if they have time to spare. The state, for instance, is running into barriers with the time-consuming process of entering data into the state’s vaccination database, known as WebIZ.
State immunization officials have said that it takes two minutes for them to enter every vaccination into the database, sucking up hours of precious time for vaccination officials.
“There are going to be a lot of opportunities for people to help and you don’t need to be a medical person,” Pasternak said.
How do I prove I’m in the tier that is currently being vaccinated?
Essential workers may be asked to provide a badge, pay stub or letter from their employer to prove that they are part of the employee group currently being vaccinated. Elderly individuals will generally be asked to verify their age and place of residence, such as with a driver’s license.
“The vaccinators are incredibly flexible. We don’t want there to be any barriers,” McDaniel said. “Law enforcement are showing their badges. Some are showing their pay stubs. Some employers are writing letters. We hope to have guiding criteria that says these are great ways to have that proof without having a barrier.”
It is not yet clear how people without government identification, such as undocumented individuals, will be asked to prove their age. McDaniel said that the state is working with community groups who work with immigrant communities to figure out the best way to verify the age of those individuals who may not have traditional forms of identification.
“It’s critical to engage these community entities to have them tell us what’s the best way to do this because we’re trying to be equitable,” McDaniel said. “We’re trying to be very cognizant of their reality.”
It is also not yet clear how individuals with pre-existing conditions will prove that they have one of the conditions that qualifies them for early vaccination. Doctors have noted that having to write individual notes for each of their patients would be an onerous process.
Will I have to pay out-of-pocket for the COVID vaccine?
No, the federal government has already paid for the COVID-19 vaccine, so the vaccine itself is provided free of charge. You may be asked for an insurance card, however, so that the provider vaccinating you can bill your insurance company for the cost of providing the vaccination. Uninsured patients will still be provided the vaccination at no cost, and the provider can enroll in a program through the federal government to recoup some of the administrative costs of providing the vaccination.
Can I get the vaccine, regardless of my immigration status?
Yes. As far as privacy concerns, the state only reports aggregate vaccination numbers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which means the federal government will not receive any information about who, specifically, in Nevada has gotten vaccinated.
Additionally, state regulations protect information in the state’s immunization information system as confidential. Access is restricted to health care providers, child care facilities, public schools, systems of higher education, the Department of Health and Human Services, insurance companies, child welfare agencies and the Department of Corrections.
Do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve had COVID-19?
People who have recovered from COVID-19 are being asked to get vaccinated because of uncertainty about how long natural immunity acquired after contracting the virus lasts. The state is currently recommending that anyone who is 90 days past the resolution of their infection to get vaccinated but are urging people to talk with their health care providers for more information about their individual situation.
What can I expect from the vaccination process?
Parker noted that getting the COVID-19 vaccine will take a few extra steps than the flu shot.
For one, she noted that there is “a lot more paperwork” people are going to get on the COVID-19 vaccine. That paperwork will include information about how to sign up for V-safe, which is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s optional smartphone-based system that offers personalized health check-ins post-vaccination. It will also include information about the vaccine they received, whether Pfizer or Moderna, some paperwork from their vaccinator, and paperwork about when to return for their next dose.
They’ll also receive a physical vaccine card with a record of their first vaccination, which will be needed when they return for their second dose.
Vaccination sites will be requiring social distancing and mask wearing. When it’s your turn, you’ll be asked some additional questions and to confirm that you are who you say you are. The vaccination itself will be quick like the flu shot — just a shot in the arm — but then you’ll be directed to a waiting area where you’ll be asked to wait at least 15 minutes to monitor for any immediate side effects.
Can I choose which vaccine I get?
Right now, because so little of the vaccine is currently available, most people aren’t going to have a choice about which vaccine they get. Pasternak said that, from his standpoint, the differences between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are subtle.
“If we have two or three more vaccines that come online, that’s where I think people probably are going to want to talk more about which vaccine is appropriate for them,” Pasternak said.
How do we know the vaccine is safe?
According to Johns Hopkins University, none of the vaccine trials have reported any serious safety concerns. Pfizer and Moderna’s clinical trials have had fully independent safety monitoring boards and safety data is reviewed continuously by the Food and Drug Administration and other experts.
“People should get the vaccine,” Pasternak said. “I’ve gotten my first vaccine. My wife, who is an anesthesiologist, is getting her second dose — I’m very envious of her. One of my good friends … he just got his second dose today. If I didn’t think it was safe, I wouldn’t be getting it.”
Pasternak said it’s okay to be nervous about the vaccine and urged anyone with any questions to talk to their primary care doctor or other local doctors they know and trust.
He also recommended that interested individuals who have a group they’d like to educate about the vaccine — such as a workplace or a church — reach out to local doctors to see if they’d be willing to participate in a Zoom vaccination education session.
“We’re here to help you. We’re part of your community. We’re getting the vaccine. We don’t want to tell people you have to get this, we want people to ask questions and feel comfortable with it,” Pasternak said.
What are the side effects of the COVID vaccine?
Common side effects include sore arm, fever, muscle pain and fatigue that resolve within 24 hours after receiving the vaccine. For most people the side effects will be a little bit more than a flu shot, though it varies, Pasternak said. In general, the second shot has tended to hit people harder, in terms of side effects, than the first.
Should I be worried about taking the vaccine if I suffer from severe allergies?
Some people who have taken the vaccine have experienced severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine, though those reactions were successfully treated and those individuals recovered. Currently, the CDC recommends that people who have had a severe or immediate allergic reaction to any ingredient in the vaccines (listed below) do not get the COVID-19 vaccine. They also recommend that anyone who has an immediate allergic reaction to the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine not get their second dose.
The CDC recommends that people with a history of severe allergic reactions unrelated to vaccines, including to food or pets, still get the vaccine. But anyone with severe allergies concerned about allergic reactions to the vaccine should talk to a doctor.
“For someone who does have severe allergies, I’m telling them to talk to their physicians and go over things,” Pasternak said. “Ultimately, we’ll have more data coming out in the next couple of weeks.”
In general, you can expect to have to wait 15-30 minutes after getting the vaccine at the location where you received it to make sure that you do not experience any allergic reactions.
Am I protected from COVID-19 after my first shot?
While studies show that the first dose of the vaccine offers some protection, you are not considered fully protected until after you get your second shot. That’s why you should return for your second dose unless a vaccination provider or doctor tells you not to. The second dose is typically administered 21 to 28 days after the first shot, depending on which vaccine you received. (Pfizer’s second dose is given in three weeks; Moderna’s is four.)
It’s important to note that while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two shots, future vaccines may only require one shot.
Can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing once I get the vaccine?
No, you must keep wearing a mask and practicing social distancing at least in the immediate future. Right now, scientists know that the vaccine is effective at preventing people from falling ill from COVID-19. However, they don’t know whether it actually stops people from carrying and transmitting the virus, though the issue is undergoing study. That means that there is a possibility that even if you have been vaccinated you could still pass the virus to an unvaccinated loved one or friend.
Pasternak said that while most vaccines both prevent you from getting sick and from transmitting the virus, not all do. The polio vaccine, for instance, stops disease but doesn’t prevent transmission.
“People say, ‘Oh, well if the vaccine doesn’t prevent disease, why get it?’” Pasternak said. “For Polio, it still helps.”
And remember: Even though the vaccines are considered 95 percent effective, that still means that 1 in 20 people who get the vaccine will not become immune to it. (Pfizer’s is 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection; Moderna’s is 94.1 percent effective.)
Will the vaccine give me COVID?
No, you can’t get COVID-19 by taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There’s no way you can get COVID from this,” Pasternak said.
None of the COVID-19 vaccines in development in the United States use a live or inactivated COVID-19 virus, though those types of vaccines are commonly used to protect against other viruses.
Live vaccines are used to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, smallpox and chickenpox. Inactivated vaccines are used to protect against Hepatitis A, the flu, polio and rabies.
However, it’s important to note that it will take some time for your body to build up immunity against COVID-19 after you receive the vaccine, so you could still fall ill with the virus if you are infected before or just after vaccination. That’s why it’s important that you continue to wear a mask and social distance.
What is an mRNA vaccine?
Unlike other vaccines that put a live or inactivated virus into our bodies to trigger an immune response, mRNA vaccines give our body a tiny piece of genetic material known as messenger RNA.
That mRNA contains instructions for how to build a harmless portion of a viral protein to teach our bodies how to fight the virus. When our cells encounter the mRNA, they manufacture that harmless protein. When the cell displays that protein on its surface, the body triggers an immune response, producing antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off the protein. That means that when our body encounters the real viral protein, it recognizes it and already knows how to defeat the virus.
The mRNA, however, does not alter or modify your DNA in any way. Once your body makes the harmless protein, the cell breaks down the mRNA and disposes of it within the cell. The mRNA never enters the cell’s nucleus, where DNA is stored.
Pasternak compared it to a castle within a village surrounded by a moat. The mRNA gets into the village but it never crosses the moat into the castle, where the DNA lives.
While mRNA vaccines are a new technology, early stage clinical trials using mRNA vaccines have been carried out for other viruses, including the flu, Zika, rabies and cytomegalovirus.
Does the vaccine work on new strains of COVID?
Early data shows Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appears to be effective against both the UK and South African strains of COVID-19, though more study is needed to know whether the vaccine remains as effective against the strains as it is against older variants.
Moderna has announced that its vaccine also appears to be effective against both the UK and South African strains of the virus, though the vaccine has diminished efficacy against the South African variant. In line with those preliminary findings, Moderna is beginning two new studies, one on a booster shot of its vaccine to combat the South African variant and a new vaccine specific to the strain.
What ingredients are in the vaccine?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made without preservatives, which experts say actually makes their ingredient lists much simpler than that of other vaccines. It’s also why they must be carefully stored in temperature-controlled settings.
“One of the good things about these vaccines is they’re pretty straightforward,” Pasternak said. “It’s a pretty clean vaccine.”
Here are the full lists of ingredients for each vaccine.
- lipids or fats: ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2- hexyldecanoate), 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine, and cholesterol)
- potassium chloride
- monobasic potassium phosphate
- sodium chloride
- dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
- Lipids or fats: (SM-102, 1,2-dimyristoyl-rac-glycero3-methoxypolyethylene glycol-2000 [PEG2000-DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC])
- tromethamine hydrochloride
- acetic acid
- sodium acetate
There is no microchip in any of the COVID-19 vaccines. The state of Nevada has a law against forced microchipping. You can read more about the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccine and what they are used for here.
Will there be more than two COVID-19 vaccines?
Right now, only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approved for distribution in the U.S., though there are dozens of others in the works. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, for instance, is expected to release results from its clinical trial in January. Because it is a different kind of vaccine, known as an adenovirus-based vaccine, it is expected to be more stable than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It also only requires one dose, not two.
Who developed the vaccine plan in Nevada and nationally?
Nationally, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has been putting forward recommendations on the COVID-19 vaccine. The state’s vaccination playbook is largely built on that guidance, with input from clinical and public health staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, the governor’s office, disability advocacy groups, and others.
If, after reading this article and visiting the links for additional information referenced in it, you cannot find the answer to your COVID-19 vaccination question, please email [email protected]. We will either attempt to answer your question over email or save it for a future update to this story.