COVID-19 Vaccines

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Different Types of COVID-19 Vaccines

There are currently three authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines in the United States: 

The table below provides additional information about each vaccine. 

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend one vaccine over another. It is best to receive the first vaccine available to you and not wait for a specific brand. All authorized and recommended vaccines are safe, effective and reduce your risk of a severe infection. 

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What is the difference between an mRNA vaccine and a Viral Vector vaccine? 

mRNA Vaccines

The mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna, use messenger RNA (mRNA) to deliver instructions to our body’s cells that teach it to produce the spike protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. Interaction with the spike protein triggers our immune system to create antibodies and prepare immune cells to break down the spike protein. This also teaches our cells to fight off the COVID-19 virus, in the case of a real infection. After the mRNA delivers instruction on how to produce the spike protein, it is broken down by our cells. 

Common mRNA vaccine myths

  • The mRNA vaccine does not contain any live virus and cannot give you COVID-19.
  • The mRNA vaccine cannot alter your DNA. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of your cells. 
  • The concept of mRNA vaccines is not new. These vaccines have been in development for over 20 years.

More resources on the mRNA vaccine can be found here:

How the mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Work, CDC

How do mRNA Vaccines Work? Here’s What You Should Know, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Viral Vector Vaccines

Vector vaccines, such as Johnson & Johnson / Janssen, use a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver instructions to our body’s cells. Genetic material from the COVID-19 virus is inserted into a different kind of weakened virus or vector virus that serves as the delivery system. The only difference between an mRNA vaccine and a viral vector vaccine is the delivery system: mRNA or vector.

The instructions delivered to our cells teach our cells to produce the spike protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. Similarly to the mRNA vaccine, the spike protein is recognized by our body’s immune system and triggers the immune system to produce antibodies and prepare immune cells to break down the spike protein. The viral vector is then broken down by immune cells.

Common Viral Vector vaccine myths

  • Viral vector vaccines cannot give you COVID-19. The vaccine uses a modified version of a different virus or vector to deliver instructions to our cells. 
  • Viral vector vaccines do not affect or interact with our DNA. 

More resources on the Viral Vector vaccine can be found here:

How Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines Work, CDC

What to expect when you get vaccinated

All authorized and recommended vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Pfizer and Moderna are given in two doses, three or four weeks apart. Johnson & Johnson is given in one single dose.

Some possible side effects may occur after receiving the first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection to fight off a COVID-19 infection. 

These side effects usually start within a day or two of getting the vaccine and should go away within a few days (24-28 hours). Side effects after the second dose may be more intense than the ones experienced after the first dose. 

Common side effects include:

  • Pain, redness or swelling near injection site
  • Tiredness
  • Dolor de cabeza
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fiebre
  • Náusea

More information on how to manage side effects can be found here:

Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC

What to Expect After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine video & PDF, CDC


Bianca Garcia holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Washburn University and a Master of Public Health from Kansas State University. She currently serves as the Community Health Division Supervisor for the Unified Government Public Health Department in Kansas City, Kansas. In this role, Bianca oversees the programming and coordination of a variety of public health initiatives including traffic safety, community infrastructure, fetal infant mortality and addressing health disparities. Bianca also collaborates with community partners to implement tobacco cessation and prevention initiatives. She manages the Tobacco Free Wyandotte Coalition which is composed of a variety of community stakeholders. Together, the coalition works to reduce the burden of tobacco associated disease in the community. Bianca also advocates for local and state tobacco policies that protect health. She has a passion for health promotion, prevention and service to the community.  

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