The vaccines currently in use to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are the fastest to have developed in recent history, which leaves some people with doubts about vaccination.
However, the messenger RNA vaccine technology used in Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines has been around for more than a decade and is used in vaccines to control rabies and Zika, said Dr. Sarah Banks, Infectious Disease Specialist in the central Hartford Health Care area.
“That was a very important step that already existed in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Banks.
Dr. Ulyessus Wu, another infectious disease specialist at Hartford HealthCare, compared this technology to auto-correction.
“The car is ready, you just change wheels,” said Wu.
In comparison, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses an inactivated adenovirus to deliver the instructions. This adenovirus is not related to the coronavirus. It’s a completely different virus. Although it can provide instructions on how to destroy the coronavirus, it cannot replicate in your body and does not result in a viral infection. This technology has also been used in vaccines to fight Ebola and other infectious diseases.
The ability to make vaccines using messenger RNA technology enables a “cut and paste” strategy once the virus sequence is identified and divided, Banks said.
Another reason why the vaccines’ early adoption was possible was the large number of scientists and researchers who spent their time and effort trying to find a solution to the global pandemic, Banks said.
“They put every effort into this one problem and came up with a vaccine even though they worked for a shorter period of time,” said Banks.
Messenger RNA vaccines are designed to teach our cells to make a protein – or just part of a protein – that triggers an immune response in our bodies.
This immune response, which produces antibodies, protects us from infection when the real virus enters our body.
The benefit of messenger RNA vaccines, as with all vaccines, is that those who are vaccinated can get protection without risking the serious consequences of COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention .
The COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccines instruct our cells to produce a harmless part of the so-called “spike protein”. The spicular protein is on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.
First, the COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccines are delivered into the muscle of the upper arm. Once the instructions (messenger RNA) are in the immune cells, the cells use them to create the protein portion. After the protein portion is created, the cell destroys the instructions and removes them.
The cell then exposes the protein portion on its surface. The immune system realizes that the protein doesn’t belong there and starts creating an immune response and producing antibodies, as it would against COVID-19.
At the end of the process, the body has learned to protect itself from future infections. The benefit of messenger RNA vaccines, as with all vaccines, is that those who are vaccinated receive protection without risking the serious consequences of COVID-19, according to the CDC.
There are several common myths about vaccines that doctors and researchers are trying to dispel.
For example, they can’t give COVID-19 to anyone.
Messenger RNA vaccines do not use the active virus that causes COVID-19.
They do not affect or interact in any way with our DNA.
Messenger RNA never gets into the cell nucleus where our DNA (genetic material) is stored.
The cell destroys and removes the messenger RNA shortly after the instructions are completed.
Going forward, messenger RNA vaccine technology may enable a vaccine to provide protection against multiple diseases, reducing the number of vaccines required to protect against common diseases that vaccines can prevent. In fact, Pfizer announced it was working on a booster vaccine that could protect against COVID-19 and seasonal influenza.
One of the differences between COVID-19 vaccines and seasonal influenza vaccines is that influenza vaccines are developed based on the prognosis of the prevailing tribe at the beginning of the season. In contrast, the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in the exact order that was prevalent at the time of its arrival. Fortunately, it has been shown to be effective against several identifiable variants.
Whether it stays that way depends on how often the virus is allowed to change in non-vaccinated people.
Additionally, cancer research has used messenger RNA to direct the immune system to target specific cancer cells.
People have also questioned the lack of long-term studies, which may raise concerns about the vaccine.
But banks and other doctors insist that people involved in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines have been immunized for almost a year.
“Patients who were originally enrolled are still being monitored by the companies that developed the vaccine,” said Banks. “And it’s still an ongoing process. We are approaching a year and have not yet seen any serious adverse events warranting a change in our methodology. “
She confirmed the suspension of the J&J vaccine due to concerns about reports of blood clots. However, the final conclusion led to studies showing that the vaccine was not an inherent hazard. The fact that a pause was taken at the first sign of possible risk should give the public confidence that the control system is working.
“Doctors and researchers are still gathering information as the launch continues,” Banks said.
Doctors and researchers enter information, and patients enter side effects into a conglomerate information system, which is checked for patterns or potential risks.
There are no additional concerns at this point, she said.
Wu tells patients that the long-term effects people need to worry about are COVID-19, getting seriously ill, or having long-term effects.
“We believe in science and safety,” said Wu. “It is studied consistently and continuously. We believe in process control and safety. “
Wu has learned that indecision occurs in groups and that indecisive people are a very small group. Groups of people who want the vaccine influence like-minded friends and family members to get vaccinated. Something similar happens with those who reject the vaccine for fear of microchips or government control, he said.
“A lot of it is not scientifically based,” said Wu.
Translation by Lizandra Mejías-Salinas, Hispanic Community of Wallingford.