Deconstructing the COVID-19 vaccine

No serious side effects; should be effective against new virus strains

On Dec. 22, Bayonne Medical Center personnel, including Chief Hospital Executive Dr. Vijay Singh, began receiving the Moderna vaccine under Phase 1A.

Singh said a survey of hospital personnel across the state determined how many doses each hospital would be receive. At first, only 50 to 60 percent of BMC employees signed up.

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According to Singh, word of mouth spread among hospital personnel that there were no issues with the vaccine, bringing the number to 70 percent, and that number continues to climb.

Encouraging vaccinations

Singh said that trend could repeat itself during Phase 2, when the general population will receive the vaccine. And since 60 percent of BMC personnel lives in Bayonne, news of the vaccine’s safety is already spreading by word of mouth to friends and family among others.

The hospital must report anyone who had side effects, via the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System (VAERS) which is a subset of the New Jersey Immunization Information System (NJIIS). The database is connected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NJ Department of Health.

Singh said a handful out of the more than 500 recipients are reporting one-day soreness at the injection site, fatigue, and body aches. No serious side effects have been reported.

New strain?

Singh said not much is known yet of the new strains of COVID-19 reported out of the United Kingdom and Brazil. He said there is no way to gauge the effectiveness of the current vaccines against these strains without extensive research. But he believes the vaccines should still be effective.

It’s “a messenger RNA vaccine, which means it tells your body to prepare enough antibodies when they see something which looks like a virus,” Singh said. “So if it’s a coronavirus, and it enters your body, that messenger RNA is telling the body that there’s a coronavirus coming and to start defending yourself now.”

“The body will respond and react to the coronavirus broadly,” Singh said. “If it’s changed a little bit, maybe some proteins are different, it really doesn’t matter. The vaccine will still react to it as a foreign body. The vaccine will still protect against a mutant strain of coronavirus because the antibodies will still fight the infection.”

Moderna believes its vaccine will be effective against the new strains of COVID-19, but is conducting additional research to confirm it.

For updates on this and other stories, check and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at

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