Valuable Information About the Covid-19 Vaccine
More than a year after the discovery of the novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, researchers have developed and tested a Covid-19 vaccine that has demonstrated a 94+% effectiveness against the virus. This highly anticipated vaccine offers hope that an end to the pandemic is finally in sight. However, questions abound regarding what the Covid 19 vaccine is, how it works, and who should get it. This article answers some of these questions and offers valuable information about the Covid-19 vaccine.
What Is the Coronavirus Vaccine?
There are three main types of Covid-19 vaccines that have either been approved for use or are undergoing large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials. These include mRNA, protein subunit, and vector vaccines. As of the writing of this article, the two vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States are the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, both of which are mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines. As the first mRNA vaccines to be approved for use in the US, they trigger an immune response without introducing weakened or inactivated virus cells into the body.
How Does the Covid Vaccine Work?
While there are ongoing clinical trials for protein subunit and vector vaccines, the two Covid vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States are both mRNA vaccines. Though the different types of vaccines work in different ways, they all leave the immune system with memory cells that protect against future exposures to the virus. Both Covid 19 vaccines currently approved for use in the US and all but one of those in Phase 3 clinical trials require two doses of the vaccine, one to begin building protection and a second, administered three to four weeks later, to get full immunity.
mRNA Covid-19 Vaccines
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine utilize the infamous “spike protein” seen on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. When a person is exposed to the Covid-19 virus, without being inoculated, these spike proteins are what allow the virus to attach to healthy cells and spread the infection throughout the body.
Both approved vaccines introduce these spike proteins, containing mRNA that delivers instructions for immune cells to replicate these proteins unique to the coronavirus. Because they do not contain the virus itself but rather only its method for attaching to healthy cells within our body, these protein spikes are entirely harmless. As our cells follow the instructions in the mRNA to replicate the SARV-CoV-2 protein spikes and display them on their surface, the immune system responds, creating antibodies to attack cells that it thinks are foreign invaders. Once these antibodies have been developed, our bodies will be equipped to protect us against future exposures to the virus.
Protein Subunit Coronavirus Vaccines
Protein subunit vaccines include only pieces of the virus that causes Covid-19, rather than the entire germ. As with other vaccines, a subunit coronavirus vaccine causes the immune system to respond when it recognizes foreign proteins that shouldn’t be inside our body. The immune system reacts by sending defensive white blood cells to attack our cells that have already been affected and create antibodies for neutralizing the virus’s threat. Because subunit vaccines contain only a part of the virus, rather than the whole, they are not an actual threat to our health, but mimic a threat in such a way that triggers an immune response. Subunit corona vaccines are in large scale clinical trials, but none have yet been approved for use by the FDA.
Vector Covid-19 Vaccines
Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a virus different from the one that causes Covid-19, but which has had genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 inserted into it. These viral vectors give our cells instructions for making proteins that are unique to the virus that causes Covid-19. As our cells make copies of these proteins, our immune system responds by attacking with white blood cells, creating antibodies that neutralize the virus. As with other forms of the Covid-19 vaccine, a viral vector creates memory cells within our immune system that enable it to protect us from future exposure to the virus. Though none have yet been approved for use by the FDA, vector Covid-19 vaccines are in Phase 3 clinical trials.
Who Should Get the Coronavirus Vaccine?
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for use for anybody over 16 and 18 years of age, respectively. Both have been recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices as safe for just about anyone, including people with underlying health conditions and the elderly. As with other vaccines, special consideration must be made for people who have a history of allergic reactions to vaccines or any ingredient within the vaccine. People with a history of allergic reactions to vaccines should consult with their doctor before getting vaccinated. The CDC still suggests it’s possible they can be vaccinated, so long as they are closely monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the shot. The CDC further recommends that all people are closely monitored for allergic reactions for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine.
Benefits of Getting the Covid-19 Vaccine
We’ve been eagerly awaiting a covid vaccine update since the beginning of this pandemic. Now that vaccines are available and being widely distributed, one of peoples’ biggest questions is whether life will now be able to return to normal. While the vaccine is an integral part of getting our lives back to normal, other benefits of getting the Covid-19 vaccine include:
- Significantly reducing your chances of getting Covid-19
- Lowering the likelihood of severe illness should you contract the illness
- Protecting those around you, especially those with underlying health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious illness
- Reducing the strain on the healthcare system as it continues to battle influenza and the Covid-19 pandemic
Coupled with ongoing preventative measures, such as wearing facial coverings and practicing social distancing, the Covid-19 vaccine will help us get ahead of and put an end to this pandemic.
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