COVID-19 Vaccines Utilize Scientific Advancements


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The covid vaccines rely on drastically new methods that use modern technologies never before possible.

On top of battling a pandemic, the COVID-19 vaccines are harnessing the power of new scientific and medical advancements. Most people tend to think of the COVID-19 vaccine as any other vaccine that they’ve gotten to protect them from diseases before. In reality, the scientific methods used to produce the COVID-19vaccines are unique and more advanced than any used in previous vaccines.

All adults are now eligible to receive a vaccine across the U.S., and Pfizer received emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds on May 10, according to CNN. Learning the differences between the COVID-19 vaccines and understanding the innovative science behind them can help ease worries about their effectiveness or safety. 

“If you enjoy science and like to know about how things work – the COVID vaccines are quite interesting. They are taking advantage of a relatively new technology,” said Mr. Bradford, a science teacher at Longfellow. 

 The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines especially are quite different from other vaccines in that they use a new method. According to NBC4 News, Pfizer and Moderna use the genetic material of the COVID-19 virus, called mRNA, in the vaccines, as opposed to the traditional methods of weakened or deactivated viruses. According to the CDC, the mRNA injected with the vaccine instructs human cells to create a copy of the Covid-19 virus protein. 

This protein is not harmful; it isn’t the virus itself. The body then understands the protein as “foreign” and will remember how to respond to it if the actual COVID-19 virus attacks. Both of the mRNA vaccines available currently in the U.S. require two doses, either three or four weeks apart, depending on the vaccine. 

On the other hand, there is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with one dose. Though the CDC paused the vaccine on April 13, they reinstated it on April 23, with the following warning: “women younger than 50 years old should be made aware of a rare risk of blood clots with low platelets following vaccination.” The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine, according to the Mayo Clinic. According to the CDC, it instead uses a technique known as a vector vaccine. A harmless virus, not COVID-19, but with the genetic “code” of the COVID-19 virus, enters the body and uses cells to create the “spike protein” of the COVID-19 virus. The spike protein is harmless, but the body recognizes it as foreign, and, similarly to the other two vaccines, after this point, the body will remember how to fight it. If the real COVID-19 virus were to arrive, the body would identify and attack the virus due to the spike protein. In terms of storage, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are kept frozen, but the J&J vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator. 

According to the CDC, all three COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Severe side effects have happened in some people, but that’s normal for many vaccines, and severe reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely rare. There are differences in efficacy, but studies were conducted differently in various ways for each vaccine, according to NBC4, which supports the idea that the efficacy rates alone aren’t that important. 

“I would have taken whatever was offered – although I was happy to find out that I was getting Pfizer,” said Mr. Bradford. The CDC clearly states that it does not recommend any particular vaccine. Therefore, in regard to effectiveness, there is no one best vaccine. “My advice would be to take whatever shot becomes available. I believe the scientists who say that the benefits to our society far outweigh the risks,” Bradford added.

The side effects are another area of interest about the COVID-19 vaccines. According to the CDC, side effects are a normal sign of immune system response, should last only a few days, and may not even happen in some people. Tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, and fever are among the most common side effects, also according to the CDC. Other symptoms such as joint pain and nausea are also possible, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

The CDC also notes that there may be more side effects after the second dose of mRNA vaccines compared to the first dose. However, getting vaccinated allows for much more safety and flexibility. As stated by the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated (fully vaccinated means two weeks after the last dose) can begin doing many things they weren’t able to previously.

“Getting the vaccine has made me feel safe and encouraged that we all might be returning to more normal conditions. Especially once my whole family got vaccinated,” said Mr. Bradford.

“The main thing to know is that it DOES work. And, even if a person thinks that they might be okay without getting a vaccine, science has shown that it risks the health of other people when someone decides to avoid getting vaccinated.” 

Bradford used polio as an example of a terrible virus that has been mostly eliminated by encouraging all children to get vaccinated. 

There may be differences between the vaccines, but no difference makes one vaccine the best. As 12 to 15-year-old’s are now eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine, they can educate themselves on the vaccine, and learn more about the different ones as well before they get it. Since vaccines are the only tool we have to end the pandemic, doctors recommend that everybody who can do their part and get vaccinated as soon as they have the opportunity.