So first: what is a vaccine? a vaccine teaches our immune system how to create antibodies, and it is these antibodies that protect people from disease. It is much safer for our immune system and our overall health, to make antibodies through vaccination than by actually catching the virus from someone else, because then your immune system has to mobilise and produce large quantities of antibodies to fight the virus. Once our immune system knows how to fight a disease, this offers protection against this disease for many years.
So in Ireland in the new year, a COVID 19 vaccine which has been developed by Pfizer and German biotech company Bio N Tech will be distributed by the HSE through GP’s, pharmacies and health centres.
The creation of the vaccine is a monumental achievement for medical science and the data analysis shows the vaccine can prevent 95% of people from getting Covid-19, including 94% in older age groups, who are the most vulnerable.
The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised to date. That said, the British media have reported 2 cases of severe allergic reaction to the vaccine in the last few days. The individuals in question received an epipen injection and have since recovered fully.
So, for those of you who might be interested in the science behind the vaccine creation, here is an overview of the procedure:
So, first of all, we have to start with the actual culprit itself or the virus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is studded with proteins that it uses to enter human cells. So, in effect, the virus is like a ball, and sticking out of the ball like nails are protein spikes.
So when someone gets infected by COVID-19, these nail like protein structures on the virus, can drill holes into human cells and inject the viral material into the cell causing all the horrible symptoms that we know associate with COVID - high temperature-dry cough-lack of taste - tiredness - shortness of breath.
So, It is no surprise that scientists targeted these nail like spikes on the virus in order to make a workable vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine (like the Moderna vaccine) is based on the virus’s genetic instructions for building these spike proteins or drilling proteins.
SO, The actual vaccine that Pfizer made, uses messenger RNA. mRNA are chemicals that directs our cells or tells the cells in our bodies to make proteins.
So, in effect, The vaccine is telling our cells to make a certain protein, and this protein stops the virus from making the spikes or nails and without these spikes the virus can’t drill holes in our cells, so we don’t get the bad side effects.
The molecule created by Pfizer is fragile. To protect the vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech have wrapped the mRNA in oily bubbles made of lipid nanoparticles.
Because of their fragility, the mRNA molecules will quickly fall apart at room temperature. Because of this, Pfizer has built built special containers with dry ice, thermal sensors and GPS trackers to ensure the vaccines can be transported at -70 degrees Celsius to stay viable.
After injection, the vaccine particles bump into cells and fuse to them, releasing the mRNA or the instruction Manuel on how to make a protein. The mRNA from the vaccine is eventually destroyed by the cell, leaving no permanent trace.
When a vaccinated cell dies, the debris will contain many spike proteins and protein fragments, which can then be taken up by a type of immune cell called an antigen-presenting cell.
The cell presents fragments of the spike protein on its surface. When other cells called helper T-cells detect these fragments, the helper T-cells can raise the alarm and help marshal other immune cells to fight the infection.
Other immune cells, called B-cells, may bump into the coronavirus spikes and protein fragments on the surface of vaccinated cells. A few of the B-cells may be able to lock onto the spike proteins. If these B-cells are then activated by helper T-cells, they will start to proliferate and pour out antibodies that target the spike protein.
The antibodies can latch onto coronavirus spikes, mark the virus for destruction and prevent infection by blocking the spikes from attaching to other cells.
The antigen-presenting cells can also activate another type of immune cell called a killer T-cell to seek out and destroy any coronavirus-infected cells that display the spike protein fragments on their surfaces.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two injections, given 21 days apart, to prime the immune system well enough to fight off the coronavirus. But because the vaccine is so new, researchers don’t know how long its protection might last.
A preliminary study found that the vaccine seems to offer strong protection about 10 days after the first dose, compared with people taking a placebo:
It’s possible that in the months after vaccination, the number of antibodies and killer T-cells will drop. But the immune system also contains special cells called memory B-cells and memory T-cells that might retain information about the coronavirus for years or even decades.
Are there any side effects? Sometimes, but they are mild. In the trial, the vaccine was generally well-tolerated, and an independent data monitoring committee reported no serious safety concerns. The worst side effects were fatigue and headaches after the second dose. About 4 per cent of people reported fatigue and 2 per cent a headache. Other side effects were pain at the injection site and muscle pain. These are common reactions you would have with vaccination. Older adults reported fewer and milder side effects.
Does it protect everyone?
No. In the trials, out of about 20,000 people who were given the vaccine, eight caught covid-19 and one became seriously ill. In contrast, 164 people who received the placebo fell ill, nine severely. It isn’t known why some people didn’t respond to the vaccine. But a success rate of 95 per cent is about as good as it gets with any vaccine.
Finally, some of my customers are worried about getting an injection of mRNA, that putting genetic material into our bodies could be worse than the actual illness. So, My response to them is this: if you has ever gone swimming in the sea, and swallowed a mouth full of sea water, well, congratulations!! you have just swallowed 10 billion viruses, thats 10,000 million pieces of genetic material in a mouthful of sea water. So, with the vaccine we are talking about 1 piece of genetic material, and a mouth full of sea water is 10 billion viruses. The vaccine is crucial to get our country back to work, so the sooner it is available, the better for everyone.
I will finish with this: Vaccines do work and are probably one of the greatest achievements in medical science to date. The small pox vaccine alone has saved 200 million lives since 1980. It’s hard to argue against this type of data.
If you have any questions, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through our website www.mytelehealth.info.