Campus Bulletin: Current Students, Faculty and Staff, Parents, ObieSafe

COVID Epidemiology Explained: Vaccine Nuances

January 12, 2021 8:30 AM

Eddie Gisemba, Director of Health Promotion for Students

The new year has ushered in a renewed optimism as vaccinations for COVID-19 are being distributed across the United States.

However, the public health community has seen a decline in vaccine compliance over the past few decades. Studies from the University of Minnesota report that receptiveness to getting the vaccine is no higher than 65 percent. These results are a reminder of an anti-vaccination movement that has been growing for the last 40 years. Outlooks on childhood vaccines causing autism have been debunked, yet there’s still concern around vaccines creating the infection they are supposed to prevent, or vaccines not being effective in general.

Let’s cover some of the little-known facts about vaccines.

  • Vaccines are not effective immediately. The annual flu shot requires roughly two weeks for our immune systems to provide us with immunity. The flu shot provides our systems with access to the necessary antigen, but then the immune system needs to develop the antibodies to combat possible infection. This requires time, so usually the flu shot is offered before flu season begins. Sometimes people still get the flu despite getting the shot because they were exposed before they received the vaccine, or it was within the two-week window afterward. Vaccines are not the cause for subsequent illness.
  • Vaccines are strain specific, meaning that some viruses are hard to create a vaccine to prevent. For instance, there aren’t multiple strains of the virus that causes polio, but there are more than 200 strains of the virus that causes the common cold. This makes polio a better candidate for creating a vaccine than the common cold. The reason there is a new flu shot every year is because scientists predict the strain of the flu they expect to see each year, and create one accordingly.
  • Symptoms overlap. Fever, shortness of breath, cough, and muscle aches are common symptoms of the flu, but also symptoms of other upper respiratory infections. For that reason, an illness can be mistaken for a different infection.