Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has been looming over us for at least a year now. As of February 05, 2021, there have been 105,334,919 reported cases globally. The unfortunate virus has claimed 2,296,375 lives. As we hopefully continue in the year 2021, the scientific advancements, that brought us a vaccine for the virus, are getting ready to bring a conclusion to the pandemic. Of-course with any new changes, there are those that adapt and those that are cautious of or hesitant to accept the changes. When the state of emergency was made known to the citizens of the world, there were those that understood the seriousness of the situation and took proper steps to prevent the infection from and the spread of the virus. There were also those that required more convincing and continue to require more convincing to comprehend the gravity of the pandemic. The same is true of the emerging vaccines. While scrolling through my social media feed, I came across a comment on an article that said, ‘people shouldn’t take the vaccine as we don’t really know what’s in it.’ My initial reaction to it was “how ignorant,” but upon further reflection, I realized it may be valid point. You should be aware of what you introduce to your body, but it is no excuse/reason to dismiss the vaccine.
–x– To learn more about what’s in the vaccine continue reading –x–
But first, I would like to flex a little bit of the medical microbiology knowledge I gained last semester (S3). SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped, single stranded, positive sense RNA virus. The entry of the virus in the host cell depends on the binding of the S protein to the host angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE 2) receptor. The S-protein has two components to it: S1 and S2. S1 is the main antigen component that recognizes and binds to the host ACE2 receptor to mediate viral entry. The S2 component mediates fusion between the viral cell membrane and host cell membrane. (Thank you, Dr. Finkle!)
The vaccine, named BNT162b2, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, is a mRNA vaccine that codes for the S-protein. The vaccine consists of the mRNA, lipids, potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate, and sucrose. The lipids are there to ensure the vaccine makes it to our immune cells protected, while the salt is there to balance its pH in our body. The mRNA is the active component in the vaccine. Our cells use the mRNA as a template to make the S-protein. Once the spike protein is displayed on the surface of the cells, our immune systems recognize the foreign protein and induce an immune response and start making antibodies against the viral protein. (To keep it simple) the thought behind the vaccine is that when an individual gets infected with the virus, they will have antibodies created against the S-protein with the help of the vaccine, which will disable the virus from initiating entry into the host cell and causing the disease.
–x– So is it safe to take the vaccine? –x–
In its Phase 3 of the trials, BNT162b2 aka the Covid-19 vaccine was tested in a double-blind study on 43,548 participants (all 16 years of age or older). Two doses of the vaccine exhibited 95% efficacy against the virus. The two doses are to be administered 21 days apart. The vaccine does not make you sick with the COVID-19, but it does have some side effects associated with it. The side effects that may be experienced include pain, swelling, and redness at the site of injection, as well as chills, tiredness, and head and body aches.
–x– References –x–
A simple breakdown of the ingredients in the covid vaccines – covid-19, health topics. (2021, January 11). Retrieved from https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2021/01/11/a-simple-breakdown-of-the-ingredients-in-the-covid-vaccines/
COVID-19 map. (2021, Februray 05) Retrieved from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
Huang, Y., Yang, C., Xu, X., Xu, W., & Liu, S. (2020, August 03). Structural and functional properties OF SARS-COV-2 Spike protein: POTENTIAL Antivirus drug development FOR COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41401-020-0485-4
Polack, F., Al., E., For the C4591001 Clinical Trial Group*, Author AffiliationsFrom Fundacion INFANT (F.P.P.) and iTrials-Hospital Militar Central (G.P.M.), Longo, E., F. P. Polack and Others, . . . L. R. Baden and Others. (2020, December 31). Safety and efficacy of the BNT162b2 Mrna Covid-19 Vaccine: NEJM. Retrieved from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2034577