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Vaccines Save Lives

How the COVID-19 vaccination works and who gets it when

Emily Shearer, RN, a critical care services nurse at Mount Nittany Medical Center, receives the COVID-19 vaccination from Dr. Upendra Thaker. | Image Courtesy Mount Nittany Health

Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 pandemic is an evolving situation. The information below was up to date at the time of publication.

Now, more than ever, we need our community to come together to stop the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines will help slow and prevent the spread of the virus to help keep our community safe. There’s a lot of information out there about the vaccines, their effectiveness and when they will be available for the general public.

Currently, there are two vaccines authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19, which are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Large-scale clinical trials for additional COVID-19 vaccines are also in progress.

How the COVID-19 vaccine works

Vaccines are key to preventing diseases and saving lives. Vaccines strengthen the immune system by inducing our bodies to build cells that will remember how to fight an infection. The COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent you from getting COVID-19, or if you do get the virus, can help prevent you from getting seriously ill or developing severe complications. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine require two shots in order for the vaccines to work and be most effective. The second dose is given three to four weeks after the first dose, depending on the vaccine. Both vaccines are estimated to have a 95 percent effectiveness rate after two doses. It takes time for your body to build up protection after a vaccination, so it may take a couple of weeks after receiving the second shot before your body builds up protection against the virus.

Keep in mind, the COVID-19 vaccines are a tool to help us fight off the virus, but they are not a cure. Experts will continue to learn more about the protection that the vaccines provide. To protect yourself, your loved ones and our community, it is crucial that we continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and everyday precautions, including wearing masks in public, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet, cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects, staying home if you are sick and performing hand hygiene frequently. Getting vaccinated and following the CDC’s recommendations will offer the best protection from COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Due to current limited vaccine supply levels, not everyone can be vaccinated right away. the Pennsylvania Department of Health has a phased approach to distribute covid-19 vaccines based on CDC guidelines.

Phase 1A focuses on reaching critical populations including health care personnel, emergency medical services, residents and staff in congregate set-tings and other essential workers. The initial phase also includes vulnerable populations and those who may be at high risk. Once a large number of doses are available, we can move to phases 1B and then 1C, which will expand to include education workers, first responders and other essential workers. Phase 2 will open to all remaining individuals 16 and older.

Over the next several months, the COVID-19 vaccine supply levels are projected to increase, which will allow vaccinations to be expanded to ensure the entire population has access to them.

To stop this pandemic, it is important that we continue to work together and use the resources we have available to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For the most up-to-date information on Mount Nittany Health’s approach to COVID-19, including the latest COVID-19 vaccine news, visit

Christopher Hester, MD, is a provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Internal Medicine and clinical chief officer, primary care services, for Mount Nittany Physician Group.

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