Understand: What is a vaccine, and how does it work on the virus?
The last year feels like a blur. Honestly, I cannot remember how the days passed from March until December. The journey from January 2020 to March 2020 was transient. Despite the declaration of COVID-19 first as an endemic and then a pandemic, life as we know it had not changed. And then suddenly we were welcoming another year already.
But as we enter the year 2021, anticipations about the vaccine for a virus that bought the world to a standstill last year, are growing. People are looking forward to the mass availability of the antidote in a hope to have a COVID-19 free year.
While major breakthroughs have been achieved, and many countries have started administering vaccines to frontline workers. Yet, many are still apprehensive about taking the vaccine as it may result in odd side effects.
But is that true? Do vaccines cause mutational effects? How do vaccines work on a person body, and should we be worried about growing an extra limb after taking the vaccine?
Hence, before we receive the COVID-19 vaccine, it is imperative to understand the science behind a vaccine and how they work.
The Bridge Chronicle spoke to Dr Harish Chafle, Consultant Intensivist, and Chest Physician, Global Hospital, Mumbai, to understand vaccines.
How does a vaccine work on a virus?
Vaccines contain weakened or inactive part of a particular organism (antigen) that triggers an immune response within the body. The person receiving the vaccine will promote the body to produce an immune response against the antigen. Hence, helping in preventing the infection.
Newer vaccines contain the blueprint for producing antigen rather than the organism itself. This weakened version will not cause the disease in itself, but it will prompt the immune system to respond much as it would have on its first reaction to the original organism (pathogen).
How do we combat the issue of evolving virus through vaccines? Example: Influenza
To combat the issue of evolving virus through a vaccine. Research and Development blueprint are activated to expedite diagnostic, vaccine and therapeutics. This blueprint helps achieve coordination between scientists and global health professional, which accelerates research and development process. The update period is generally twice a week.
How long does the effect of a vaccine last?
Once vaccinated, the body will develop antibodies naturally that correspond with the virus and ward off future infection. But it is still unclear how long the effect of these antibodies will last. We can learn this from the natural virus, and the time depends on the type of vaccine. Considering COVID-19, the effectiveness will only be visible over time.
Are there different kinds of vaccines?
There are four main categories of the vaccine:
1) Whole Virus vaccine
2)Protein subunit vaccine
3)Viral vector vaccine
4)Nucleic acid (RNA DNA)
Can you contract a disease despite having a vaccine?
Yes, you can still contract a disease if one's body has not developed an immune response against the virus. It also depends upon the kind of vaccine, and how many doses are required to promote the desired immune response.
What can be the expected side effects of corona vaccine?
Pain around the injection site. Fatigue, body aches, muscle pain, fever. Severe side effects are rare and seen in only 0.5 per cent of people.
What are the effects of viral mutations on vaccine?
Mutations in the virus will not affect the vaccine development as vaccine invokes overall immunity of the body. Also the said mutations are mostly minor mutations, which occur at one, two or ten locations. But a vaccine aims at developing antibodies against the whole virus.
Are different vaccine given to specific age groups?
Yes, different vaccines are is given to specific age groups. But, as of now, concerning COVID-19, none of the vaccines are tried on children.
While we wait for more information and vaccine drives to begin, it is essential to stay informed about the progress. Vaccines are not new, and most of us have been given vaccines as kids. But, as we survive through a pandemic, a vaccine is our only hope to get through.
*This article is aimed at spreading information about vaccines in general and not specifically about COVID-19.