By Ayo Di
To vax or not to vax? That is the question.
With the scare of the reported adverse side effects of Covid-19 vaccines in Western countries, is it really safe to be vaccinated? Do vaccines for Coronavirus really work?
Before getting into that, Dr. Joann Diray-Arce, Filipino scientist from Harvard School of Infectious diseases in Boston, said it is important to understand our natural immune response when getting the vaccine.
“Dapat po nating alamin kung papapano nagwo-work ang ating immune system. Hindi ibigsabihin na nabukanahan tayo ngayon ay mapo-protektahan tayo kinabukasan,” she said.
Dr. Diray-Arce elaborated that bodies have an innate immunity which provides a short-term protection from the virus before it settles to an adaptive immunity—the time when the immune system produces antibodies or T-cells that fight off the virus. However, with the SARS-CoV2 virus, the immune system does not really have a fair chance at times, especially for people with underlying health issues or comorbidities. Hence, a need for the vaccine.
Currently, there are two popular technologies among others that are used in developing Covid-19 vaccines: the mRNA and adenovirus.
Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have used the mRNA technology—a new type of vaccine that pegs itself as a Trojan horse among the virus. This introduces a messenger RNA in a protective shell that contains the instructions for SARS-CoV2 spike protein — a “harmless piece” of the same protein the virus uses to infect host cells. It will then trigger the immune system to recognize it, and respond by creating antibodies and immune cells to eliminate it. By the time a person catches the real virus, it has already mastered its own system to neutralize the spike protein. In short, it triggers the body into making the protein and exposing the immune system to it without actually exposing it to the real virus.
Vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnsons used the adenovirus technology. It is basically using one virus to deliver the vaccine against the other. Wherein a modified version of the adeno virus — a common virus that causes common respiratory infection like coughs and fever — is introduced to the immune system which releases genes that encode the spike protein. This modified version also prevents the virus from replicating itself and inducing harm in the body.
“Definitely, they are safe and effective. Tama lang po na magkaroon tayo ng agam-agam dahil ito ay binibigay sa mga healthy population. But at the same time, pinag aralan po natin ‘to. Hindi ibig sabihin na minadali yung bakuna, we don’t know anything about it. We have been learning about it for years. Especially yung mga bagong technology na nalalaman natin katulad ng mRNA technology and adenovirus vector vaccines. We have been studying this for decades even. It’s just that at this time, kailangan nating labanan ang COVID, ang transmission dahil maraming namamatay.”
Dr. Diray-Arce emphasized that no matter which vaccine you choose, this will be an important step in fighting COVID-19 not only for you, but for everyone around you.
To vax or not to vax? It seems like the more prominent answer is yes.