The immune system then produces antibodies as if you were exposed to the disease.
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"It's more what does our body do in response to the vaccine and less what the vaccine does to us," said Dr. Susanna Naggie, an infectious diseases physician at Duke University's School of Medicine. "It's not a drug. Drugs do things to our bodies. Vaccines just deliver information. Our bodies are the ones that do something to that."
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Dr. Naggie said your immune system has the ability to create memories of various organisms it comes into contact with. She said the body needs to recognize some of the memories as foreign and attack them.
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"The general concept is getting that material that mimics the virus or the bacteria into the body allows the immune system to recognize it, log it away in its memory banks and when it's exposed to that organism it can immediately respond with a natural immune response and clear that virus or bacteria out," she said.
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The immune response can present itself in the form of a body ache, fever, daylong exhaustion and other symptoms. Dr. Naggie said the side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine would be similar to those after getting the shingles vaccine.
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"What you're doing is injecting the genetic code into the muscle," Dr. Naggie said. "The human body already has the machinery to take genetic code to proteins. The human body does that part and once that protein is developed, that's the part the immune system can recognize."
Ultimately the COVID-19 vaccine does not inject you with live virus, unlike the measles or chicken pox vaccine.
Thus there is no risk of getting an infection from the COVID-19 vaccine.