How do Covid-19 Vaccines Work

How Do COVID-19 Vaccines Work?

Medical researchers are currently developing potential vaccines for COVID-19, using a variety of germ-fighting strategies. All of these vaccines have one thing in common: they’re designed to jump-start the body’s immunological response by introducing harmless variants on the SARS-CoV-2 virus in order to build immunity against COVID-19.

White blood cells are the foot soldiers of the human immune response. There are three main types of white blood cells: macrophages, which swallow up germs and dead cells; B-lymphocytes, which manufacture antibodies to attack active pathogens; and T-lymphocytes, which focus on human cells already harboring infection. Though effective against many types of disease, white blood cells require time to mount a successful defense against invading pathogens. The great advantage of vaccination is that it helps prepare your body’s immune response without you getting ill. If you do eventually become infected, your body’s defenses swing into action much faster, limiting your symptoms and speeding up your recovery.

What Types of COVID-19 Vaccines Are There?

The COVID-19 vaccines currently in development fall into one of four primary categories:

  • mRNA vaccines: Genetically engineered RNA molecules induce human cells to produce a harmless protein that is associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This protein prompts your body to begin manufacturing COVID-19 antibodies.
  • Viral-vector vaccines: Viral-vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a virus similar enough to SARS-CoV-2 that your immune system creates antibodies that will be effective against COVID-19.
  • Protein-subunit vaccines: The proteins contained by this vaccine are harmless components of the COVID-19 virus. Your body detects the presence of these proteins, and ramps up an immune response.
  • Inactive or weakened virus vaccines: This vaccine contains a harmless version of the COVID-19 pathogen, which spurs the production of white blood cells and antibodies in response.

These vaccines are being produced by a number of different pharmaceutical businesses, each with its own timeline for development and testing. They will not be approved for use in the U.S. without rigorous clinical evaluation of their safety and efficacy.

What Vaccines Are Currently Available?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in persons 16 years or older by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A second vaccine, from Moderna, has also been approved by the FDA for emergency use in persons 18 years or older.  Johnson & Johnson is the third vaccine available, and has been approved under emergency use authorization. 

Here’s some more information on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine:

  • Clinical trials have shown the vaccine to be 94-95 percent effective in warding off the original COVID-19 virus.
  • It is an mRNA vaccine.
  • It will be delivered by intramuscular injection to the arm.
  • It requires two injections given three weeks apart.
  • Some people experience mild side effects, including injection site swelling and pain, headaches, fever, chills, and fatigue.
  • It is not suitable for individuals who have had allergic reactions to similar types of vaccines in the past.