Vaccination Overview: The Moderna Process

Writing this article in January, it’s hard to say where we’ll be at along the process of vaccination roll out here in California by the time this is published in February. As a veterinarian who was able to receive her first vaccination during a temporary inclusion of my profession in the 1A group before switching us again to the 1B group, I’ve had a glimpse that many have not yet had at the vaccination process. As a vet, I am also intimately familiar with vaccination as a whole.

The basic idea of vaccination is that by introducing the body to a component of an infectious agent – this may be the agent itself, or a part of its physical makeup – then we can induce an immune response in the body. By inducing this “practice” immune response, the body is then able to launch a faster, more complete attack on the actual infectious agent if exposed to it again in the future.

There are several different categories of vaccination types. Words like “live vaccine” imply that the infectious agent itself is present. More often, a “modified live vaccine” or “live attenuated” is used, meaning that the infectious agent is present but damaged just up to the point that it cannot cause disease, but is not so crippled that it would be beyond recognition as its original form. There are also “inactivated vaccines,” meaning an entirely deactivated form of the infectious agent is used. Finally (for the purposes of this article), there are also subunit vaccines, meaning that only a portion of the infectious agent is used – its “calling card,” if you will.

The Moderna vaccine, which I received, is a subunit vaccine. It uses a “calling card” of COVID-19 to induce an immune response. Like most vaccines, after a sterile alcohol swab is used to prep the skin, it’s injected into the muscles of the upper arm. While the immune system is creating a reaction to the “calling card” and, like any other reaction, can result in vaguely flu-like symptoms for a day or so in some people, in my experience and the experience of the others in the veterinary field I have spoken with, the most common side effect we’ve experienced is a sore arm for up to a couple days. Annoying, but much more tolerable than losing respiratory function.

To get the vaccine, I went online to the L.A. County Department of Health website, identified the portion of the healthcare field I belong to, and showed up the day-of with my veterinary medical board certificate and personal ID. I was directed to the vaccination site, and then afterwards to an area where I waited for 15 minutes to ensure I didn’t have any of the less common, more serious potential vaccine reactions.

Overall, the process was smooth, fast, and pretty painless. I’m grateful that years of science and technology research have been distilled into a single, life-saving pinprick that I as a veterinary healthcare worker, and hopefully soon the public at large, are able to access simply by standing in a line.

For updates on the vaccination process here in L.A. county, visit

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By Dr. Miceala Shocklee

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