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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Explainer: How well do you know the vaccine you took?


COVID-19, since it was first discovered has proved to be one of humanity’s deadliest disasters. This disease has brought almost every plan to a halt, disintegrated families and caused the demise of many. Its economic impact resulted into job losses and witnessed the dead end to the sources of livelihood. Yet, relentlessly, brave men and women in the medical field have been fighting tooth and nail to find medicine that will bring an end to the virus. So far, they have been largely successful as there have been a number of vaccines that have been produced to strengthen the immune system to fight the virus. 

In simple terms, vaccines train your immune system to create antibodies which is then used to build resistance to specific infections. The same principle is used in developing the COVID-19 vaccines. Due to how serious COVID -19 is, GAVI explains that all vaccines work by exposing the body to molecules from the target pathogen to trigger an immune response yet two different methods of exposure were used in developing the various vaccines which we took. 

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna used what is called messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines whilst the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine used a viral vector vaccine.  According to Vaccinate Your Family, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines basically tells our cells to make a harmless piece of spike protein (the red spikes seen on the surface of the coronavirus). This spike protein appears to be unfamiliar to our immune system thus the immune system is tricked into producing antibodies with the intention of fighting the the spike protein. 

These antibodies then actually protect us the next time we come into contact with the Sars-cOV2 virus. After the spike protein does its job of tricking our immune system to produce antibodies, our cells break it down and gets rid of it without any harm to us. 

File Photo.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine on the other hand is developed using a viral vector technology. Here, the vaccine uses a harmless version of a different virus called adenovirus that have been combined with the coronavirus spike protein mentioned above. The modified adenovirus then enters your cells and instructs it on how to produce a harmless spike protein on its surface to trick your immune system into producing antibodies that will later protect you from the real COVID-19 virus.

File Photo.

Mayo Clinic made comparisons of the effectiveness of the two types of vaccines.  They found out that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines have a 91% and 94% level of effectiveness at preventing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms in people age 16 and older. They also have a 89% and 90% effectiveness in preventing people with health conditions such as diabetes or obesity from developing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms.

The Johnson & Johnson vector vaccine on the other hand has a 66% level of effectiveness at preventing the COVID-19 virus with symptoms whilst 85% effectiveness at preventing the COVID-19 virus with severe illness.  All the vaccines however appears to protect against severe COVID-19 due to the COVID-19 variants.  Dosage wise, the Johnson & Jonson vector vaccine requires just one dose whilst the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines requires two doses for full protection. The two doses are taken 21 days apart in the case of Pfizer-BioNTech and 28 days apart for Moderna.

Whilst the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending a third dose for an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after the second dose for some people with weakened immune system, There isn’t enough research to determine if people with weakened immune systems who got a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have an improved response after getting an additional dose of the same vaccine.

Now that COVID-19 vaccines have reached billions of people worldwide, the evidence is overwhelming that no matter which one you take, the vaccines offer life-saving protection against a disease that has killed millions. The pandemic is far from over, and they are our best bet of staying safe.”GAVI

This story is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 protect. 

Edited by Zubaida Mabuno Ismail.



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