How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?

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Image source: health.mil (Military Health System website)

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines instruct the body’s cells to make a harmless piece of “spike protein.”

Two COVID-19 vaccines are now approved for the U.S. market, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna. Many people are hesitant to get a vaccine. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, “About half of U.S. adults (51%) now say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 if it were available today; nearly as many (49%) say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated at this time. Intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has fallen from 72% in May, a 21 percentage point drop.”

The best way to understand how vaccines work is to comprehend how the body’s immune system works to protect us against disease. Immunize BC, the organized effort to deliver vaccines to British Columbia residents, says that your immune system is made up of specialized “organs, cells, and tissues that all work together to help protect you against disease.”

Kidshealth.org notes, “When the body senses foreign substances (called antigens), the immune system works to recognize the antigens and get rid of them. B lymphocytes are triggered to make antibodies (also called immunoglobulins). These proteins lock onto specific antigens.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work by giving “instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the ‘spike protein.’” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Robin Eye, Director of Nursing at Cortland Acres says, “Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you by creating an antibody response in your body without having to become sick.” The Preston County News and Journal reports that Cortland Acres was one of the first West Virginia nursing homes to receive and distribute the vaccine.