How COVID-19 Vaccines work

Vaccines in a traditional sense, give you immunity to a disease without you getting sick. They use dead or weak versions of the germ or germ parts to create an antigen. It is proven much safer to get a vaccine than to get the disease and build your own immunity (How do vaccines work?). The COVID-19 vaccines are not traditional vaccines.

Should you take the COVID-19 vaccination? I can't answer that question, but if you are thinking about it, let's take a look at what is available and the differences between them. Right now, available in the United States are 3 vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are similar as they are mRNA vaccines, and Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine.

What is mRNA? Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a single-stranded RNA molecule that is complementary to one of the DNA strands of a gene. The mRNA is an RNA version of the gene that leaves the cell nucleus and moves to the cytoplasm where proteins are made. During protein synthesis, an organelle called a ribosome moves along the mRNA, reads its base sequence, and uses the genetic code to translate each three-base triplet, or codon, into its corresponding amino acid. MRNA are one of the types of RNA that are found in the cell. This particular one, like most RNAs, is made in the nucleus and then exported to the cytoplasm where the translation machinery, the machinery that actually makes proteins, binds to these mRNA molecules and reads the code on the mRNA to make a specific protein. So in general, one gene, the DNA for one gene, can be transcribed into an mRNA molecule that will end up making one specific protein, according to the National Human Genome Research Institution.

This is a new method of fighting a virus. In terms that I can understand, it creates proteins that your body will react to neutralize the virus. Here is an early study of the mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus 2), this is the pandemic version. Now that we kind of understand how this works let's talk about how viral vector vaccines work.

Viral vector vaccines use live viruses to carry DNA into human cells. The DNA contained in the virus encodes antigens that, once expressed in the infected human cells, elicit an immune response (Emory University). This type of vaccination is not new, but is for use in humans. Most of these types of vaccines are used in animals, which is fitting because COVID was contracted between animals and was not able to infect humans until recently. This is the method that Johnson and Johnson use. Read more at Houston Methodist.

So which one is better? Yale Medicine claims Pfizer-BioNTech has 95% efficacy. Moderna has 94.1% and Johnson & Johnson trailing behind at 72% but 82% in Africa. However, Johnson & Johnson has the least amount of side effects recorded so far and only requires one shot instead of two.

I'm personally vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNtech mRNA version. The only side effect I had thus far was the soreness from the site shot for one day. I did not get sick at all. My wife (a 20-year nurse) has been giving me a vitamin regimen since March 2019, I have not been sick with even a cold since then. One thing I have learned personally during the pandemic, taking vitamins really does make a difference in boosting your immune system. If you don't get vaccinated at least take vitamins.

Author: Brent Luyet

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