What Does The Covid Vaccine Do?

George J. Ziogas

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Does the Covid vaccine protect you from getting sick from Covid? The goal of all vaccines is to keep people from developing an infectious disease. The Covid vaccine helps protect you from getting sick with Covid because of how your body's immune system works.

The Immune System

Bacteria, viruses, and other infectious organisms are known as pathogens. Pathogens damage your body's cells and make you sick. According to John Hopkins Medicine, you are born with an innate immune system that recognizes pathogens. When you are exposed to a pathogen, your acquired immune system helps protect you from the next time you are exposed.

The first time you are exposed, it takes time for your body to recognize a pathogen and mobilize your white blood cells to destroy it. As your body fights off disease, it also creates antibodies against future exposure.

Once you recover from the disease, the antibodies stay in your system to recognize the next time you are exposed to that pathogen and shorten the time needed to fight it. This keeps you from getting sick again after your first exposure.

Acquired immunity can be active or passive. Active immunity comes from either having a disease or being vaccinated against it. Because many of the diseases produced by pathogens cause severe illness or death, vaccines allow you to develop immunity without getting the disease and becoming ill.

However, it takes time for your body to produce enough antibodies to protect you. Passive immunity occurs when you receive antibodies directly through a transfusion. Passive immunity is immediate, but it doesn't last very long, usually only a few weeks or months.

The Need for New Technology

The Covid vaccine provides you with acquired immunity without getting sick from the Covid disease. Most previous vaccines use a weakened or inactivated form of a virus. The Covid vaccine uses mRNA and viral vector technology instead.

The previous process to create a vaccine was very time-consuming. Researchers had to identify the correct pathogen and determine how to weaken or inactive it enough to provide immunity without making people sick from the disease. This process was slow and required repeated testing to ensure the vaccine was safe and effective.

mRNA and viral vector technology have been studied for over 20 years. Scientists wanted to find a faster way to produce vaccines. Disease outbreaks throughout the world showed a need to create vaccines that could quickly stop a disease's spread.

Typically, if someone isn't infected, they can't pass the disease onto someone else. By keeping people from getting infected with a vaccine, scientists hoped to minimize disease outbreaks.

mRNA and viral vector technology use genetically modified platforms instead of a pathogen. The Covid virus has a specific protein on its surface known as a spike protein. The Covid vaccine is made by programming the platform to expose your body to only this protein. Your innate immune system recognizes the protein as a pathogen and makes antibodies against it. But the protein alone can't give you Covid.

Because the platforms for mRNA and viral vector vaccines were already created, researchers only needed to identify the virus protein to create the vaccine. This process is considerably shorter than making a vaccine by using the virus itself.

The Covid Vaccine

Once your innate immune system is exposed to the Covid protein from the vaccine, your body forms antibodies against the virus. Once enough antibodies are created, you are immune to the disease.

Unfortunately, vaccines do not give the entire population 100% immunity. Some people may not be able to have the vaccine because of medical conditions or age. For others, their immune systems do not fully respond to the vaccine and create enough antibodies. And virus pathogens can mutate, making a vaccine ineffective.

In clinical trials, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the mRNA Covid vaccine to be 95% effective against getting the disease. The viral vector Covid vaccine currently being used was found 85% effective. Researchers continue to monitor the Covid vaccine's effectiveness as more people get vaccinated.

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