Science

An Insight Into The Coronavirus Vaccines

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Questions To Consider

  • What exactly happens when you receive a coronavirus vaccine?
  • What are the differences between the authorized vaccines?
  • How does their effectiveness vary?

Introduction

With the distribution and administration of vaccinations picking up more speed, a question that many have had is about the difference between the various types of vaccines. There are two main types of vaccines that will be discussed here; viral vector and mRNA/DNA vaccines. So far, three companies have been authorized to release their vaccines to the public in the United States, and they are Pfizer-Biotech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson. Two more vaccines are in their final phase of clinical trials, those being AstraZeneca and Novavax. All of these vaccines vary in their composition and method of protection from the virus. In this article, we will take a closer look at what exactly goes on behind the scenes when you are vaccinated.

What exactly happens when you receive a coronavirus vaccine?

When you receive a coronavirus vaccine, you are administered either part or all of the virus to allow your body’s immune system to recognize the viral abnormality and nullify it. The reason some people show fever-like symptoms is not because they have contracted the disease; rather, it is their body working to learn to destroy the virus or portion of the virus given by the vaccine, depending on which one you are administered. This strong immune response causes those symptoms, which subside after a short period of time. Certain coronavirus vaccines may also cause allergic reactions depending on the person, so talking to a doctor or medical expert about your allergies would be best before taking the vaccine. In summary, these are all the things that the vaccines have in common, and so their differences are what we will look at in the next section.

What are the differences between the authorized vaccines?

As mentioned before, three vaccines have been authorized for emergency use by the CDC. The first was the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine, and this vaccine uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, to provide defense against the virus. mRNA is inherently present in all of our cells, and instructs our cells to form new proteins or repair damage in the cell. The idea of mRNA vaccines was established in 2005 by scientists at Penn Medicine, and are now used across the world in an assortment of viruses. The vaccine will use the viral mRNA and present it in our body so that proteins and antibodies will be created specifically to counter the virus itself. Two doses must be administered for this because the first dose only provides partial immunity; microscopically, this means that there isn’t a sufficient amount of antibodies being produced to grant full immunity to the disease, which is where the second dose comes in and supplements the lack of full immunity by producing enough antibodies to be able to counter and suppress an infection. Moderna’s vaccine follows the same structure, administering two doses. This is asserted by the fact that both vaccines have 95% efficacy and have proven to be highly effective. 

Another type of vaccine that has been authorized is Johnson and Johnson’s one-dose viral vector vaccine, and what this vaccine does is that it can take the genetic material found in the coronavirus, and use genetic recombination to implant certain parts of the genetic material into an easily recognizable vector, that being the adenovirus, which causes the common cold. The adenovirus vector is weakened and then implanted with the genetic material of the coronavirus, so that when it enters the body, it will quickly be destroyed by the immune system, which will recognize the genetic material of the coronavirus. The information that your body receives will tell the body cells to recognize and develop the spike protein unique to the coronavirus, which the antibodies will then destroy. The purpose is that this material will be recognized in the event of the actual virus entering the body, thus being shut down again. The AstraZeneca vaccine is also following this procedure in their clinical trials, and so there will be two variants of the viral vector vaccine after it is authorized for the public.

How does their effectiveness vary?

As stated earlier, the Pfizer-Biotech and Moderna vaccines both have 95% efficacy against the coronavirus, as they administer two successive doses. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine has 72% efficacy, but only requires one dose. This gives Americans a variety of vaccines to choose from, and with the possibilities of more vaccines being authorized, there will be more choice involved in the administration of the coronavirus vaccines. All in all, the three authorized and two unauthorized coronavirus vaccines have substantial differences, but all yield an effective response to the coronavirus disease.

TL;DR

  • When given a coronavirus vaccine, you will be given either the genetic material or a weakened form of the virus, and in turn these will cause the immune system to produce a strong reaction, which in turn causes feverish symptoms. However, these are not coronavirus-related; they are just natural occurrences with a vaccine such as these three vaccines.
  • Two forms of vaccines are mentioned here: mRNA vaccines, which presents itself in our body as a blueprint to counter the actual virus itself, and viral vector vaccines, where genetic material from the virus is stored in a commonly seen virus, such as the adenovirus, or the common cold.
  • Both Moderna and Pfizer-Biotech use the mRNA vaccine, which requires two doses for 95% efficacy, and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a single-dose viral vector vaccine, with around 70% efficacy.

Citations

https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/there-are-four-types-covid-19-vaccines-heres-how-they-work#:~:text=The%20four%20main%20types%20of,RNA%20and%20DNA).

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/different-types-of-covid-19-vaccines/art-20506465

https://www.pennmedicine.org/coronavirus/vaccine/types-of-covid-vaccines

https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-race-for-a-covid-19-vaccine-explained

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