You’ve talked to your doctor and decided that vaccination is the right choice for you. They’ve advised you on how and when you should get vaccinated. Now what?
Black breast cancer patients have unique concerns when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. You’re not a stranger to shots that really, really hurt. You know firsthand how side effects are more than just a footnote on a medication slip—from the chemo nausea that keeps you from being able to cook or eat to hair loss and surgery scars that can destabilize your physical identity. Not to mention the fact that you are rightly skeptical of a medical system with a documented history of systemic racism.
These concerns can’t be wished away or dismissed. But some breasties have found comfort in understanding what will actually happen inside their bodies when they receive the vaccine.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA based vaccines. Dr. Monique Gary, a leading black breast surgeon, equates the mRNA vaccine to a sewing pattern. The first injection gives you the pattern. “You make it. You cut the cloth, you sew it.” Once it’s complete, your body knows what that pattern looks like all sewn together. When your body sees the pattern again (in the COVID virus), it can recognize it and get rid of it.
The newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine delivers the sewing pattern a little differently.
It’s a viral vector vaccine, which means that scientists took the COVID-19 sewing pattern and put it into a weakened, harmless virus (adenovirus). The adenovirus that carries the pattern can’t replicate or spread inside your body, which means that it can’t make you sick. Once injected, the harmless virus delivers the sewing pattern to some of your cells. These cells cut the cloth and sew the pattern. Your immune system learns to recognize the completed pattern and mount a response in defense.
All of the vaccines have the same goal: to teach your immune system to recognize and attack the COVID-19 pattern.
Normal Symptoms to Expect
Some minor side effects are normal, especially after the second shot. By the second shot, your immune system easily recognizes the pattern and fights it off more aggressively. It’s never a bad thing to have a more robust response with the second shot, it just means that your immune system is prepared and ready to fight.