We are blessed to live during a time where scientific innovation has produced numerous vaccines that are highly effective at targeting disease-causing organisms, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
Thanks to decades of work by top scientists and physicians, many diseases that at one time would have resulted in severe illness, disfigurement and often death have now been almost completely eradicated. However, widespread misinformation over the past several years has led to vaccine hesitancy, particularly when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Understanding how the COVID-19 vaccine works and dispelling common myths about it is essential to help people make an informed decision and help our community eradicate this disease once and for all.
How do the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines work?
While messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines are new to the public, scientists have been developing and studying them for decades. Many vaccines use a weakened or inactive virus to initiate an immune response in our bodies. That immune response then causes our bodies to produce antibodies that will specifically target that virus should we be exposed to the real thing.
The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work differently. The mRNA vaccine gives our bodies instructions on how to produce a harmless spike protein. This protein is found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus and is what helps it to enter our cells and cause illness. Even though our cells produce the spike protein following immunization, our bodies still recognize it as a “foreign invader” and produce antibodies to fight it. This is particularly helpful with diseases such as COVID-19, where the virus itself has been shown to frequently mutate. Once our bodies have produced the spike protein, it then breaks down and eliminates the mRNA within a few days of vaccination.
Common myths and misinformation
• COVID-19 vaccines can cause variants of the virus: COVID-19 vaccines do not cause or create variants of the illness. New variants emerge because of the virus’s continuous mutation. The vaccine can help prevent new variants from emerging by reducing the virus’s spread and lowering its chances of mutation.
• COVID-19 vaccines can change or alter my DNA: COVID-19 vaccines do not interact with our DNA in anyway. The vaccine delivers instructions to our cells to start building protection, but the substance never enters the nucleus of our cells, which is where our DNA is stored and protected.
• COVID-19 vaccines cause the COVID-19 illness: None of the FDA approved vaccines contain the live virus, and therefore cannot cause you to contract the actual illness. The vaccine does initiate an immune response within our bodies, which can produce symptoms such as fever, chills, and body aches. These are all natural reactions and signs that our body is building the immunity it needs to fight the real virus.
• COVID-19 vaccines can cause a positive viral test: Viral tests are only positive when there is an active infection. Vaccines can cause a positive antibody test which means that it has done its job and helped our bodies produce the necessary immunity to fight the virus.
It is important to remember that getting the vaccine does not mean that you cannot contract COVID-19. However, individuals who are vaccinated typically have less severe symptoms and have a much lower chance of requiring intubation or dying from the disease. When it comes to your health, make sure you are getting information from reputable sources and speak with your primary care provider regarding the right decision for you. If we all work together, we can stop this disease once and for all! Stay healthy Kingsport!
Healthy Kingsport is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a community that actively embraces healthy living by promoting wellness, enhancing infrastructure, and influencing policy. Aiesha Edwards is the Executive Director of Healthy Kingsport. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For programs and events, contact Desteny Clemons email@example.com. At the Lynn View Community Center, join us at the 5th Annual Walk for Wellness Expo on April 23, 2022, to learn more about the community’s health and wellness. The Walk for Wellness expo is a free event! What a free t-shirt? Register today.
This article was written by Aimee Light, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC Director of Cardiovascular Services Holston Valley Medical Center.