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COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Media

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COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Patients

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UC San Diego Health currently administers the COVID-19 vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.  These vaccines provide cells with instructions to produce a harmless piece of the virus' characteristic spike protein. The human immune system recognizes the spike protein as "foreign" and builds an immune response against it. Later, if vaccinated persons are exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, their immune systems are already prepared to help prevent infection and illness. 

Messenger RNA vaccines do not alter individuals' DNA. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell, where DNA is kept. mRNA vaccines have proven to be quicker to develop than traditional DNA-based vaccines, but they can be more difficult to store. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be stored at super-cold temperatures prior to use and both are given as a two-dose course. The second Pfizer dose is administered 21 days after the first, and the second Moderna dose 28 days after the first. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine employs an older approach: A deactivated common cold virus is modified to carry the SARS-CoV-2's characteristic spike protein, which the virus uses to enter host cells. This vaccine "vector" is injected, and the presence of the spike protein prompts the human immune system to create neutralizing antibodies to block the targeted pathogen, essentially rendering subsequent exposures to the coronavirus as non-infectious.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two injections spaced 21 to 28 days apart to achieve full efficacy, and require ultra-cold storage. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine involves a single injection, and can be stored in standard refrigerators.

The COVID-19 vaccines are made available to different groups of people at different times, in phases designed to distribute it equitably and effectively. Federal, state and county guidance determine the eligibility and timing for each phase.


Photo Gallery


  • Carl Solomon Sr., UC San Diego Health employee, getting COVID-19 vaccine

    "I think this is a turning point. This is a true milestone for everyone in terms of a glimmer of hope." - Carl Solomon Sr., Director of Environmental Services at UC San Diego Health

  • Brianna Salas, UC San Diego Health employee, getting COVID-19 vaccine

    "There is a lot of emotion right now — tears of joy and happiness. It's been a long year, and in the emergency room, we see so many people who are sick. This vaccination makes me feel a lot of relief." - Brianna Salas, RN, nurse in the Emergency Department at UC San Diego Health and first person to be vaccinated at Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla

  • Rosalinda Melendrez, UC San Diego Health employee, getting COVID-19 vaccine

    At UC San Diego Health, we are vaccinating first those team members who regularly come into contact with patients, particularly those with COVID-19.

  • Vaccine team celebrates arrival of COVID-19 vaccine

    "I’m excited to start offering this vaccine to our health care team members, and hopefully very soon to our patients. This means the end might finally be in sight." - Marlene Millen, MD, chief medical information officer and an internal medicine primary care physician at UC San Diego Health

  • COVID-19 vaccine arrives at UC San Diego Health

    The UC San Diego Health Pharmacy team received the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine early on December 15.

  • FedEx receipt for COVID-19 vaccine

    COVID-19 vaccine delivered.

  • UC San Diego Health received 5,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 22

    UC San Diego Health received 5,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 22

 



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