Better understanding COVID-19 vaccines

There are so many wild theories out there about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and COVID-19 vaccines that it would likely take an entire edition of this journal to fully ventilate and debunk them.

But the rapidity at which false narratives about the vaccines circulate on social media and the broader internet, and the readiness with which many people accept them as fact, is stupefying.

What we know is this: the most common COVID-19 vaccines in the world – those produced by Pfizer/BiotNTech, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca – work, and they are so far just as safe in terms of adverse side effects as vaccines regularly administered to the public.

In late-stage clinical trials, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to be 95 percent and 94.1 percent effective, respectively, at preventing severe COVID-19 infection.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was found to have an average efficacy of 70 percent.

Israel has already inoculated millions of its residents with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to spectacular results so far, and believes it will reach herd immunity by next month.

The United Kingdom, which is administering both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccine, this week released data showing that the risk of hospitalization after one dose of the two-dose vaccines was reduced by over 80 percent.

Approximately one-third of all adults in the United Kingdom have been vaccinated to date.

The UK’s program has been so successful that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that all COVID-19 emergency protocols could possibly be abandoned sometime in June.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA technology – a revolutionary medical development that had been in development for at least a decade.

The mRNA teaches cells how to produce spike proteins similar to those found on SARS-CoV-2.

At no point does it enter a cell’s nucleus to interact with the DNA.

Therefore, all the publicly available research shows it cannot alter your DNA.

Also, it was not made from aborted fetal tissue.

And it cannot give you COVID-19.

At this stage, however, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are immaterial to our domestic concerns as they are not currently approved for use in The Bahamas.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is approved for use in The Bahamas, uses decades-old viral vector technology, which reformats a re-engineered adenovirus to insert non-replicable DNA into the nucleus of the cell.

This teaches the cell to produce spike proteins similar to those found on SARS-CoV-2 in order to generate an immune response from the human body.

The main adverse side effects of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots are headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, chills, fever, and pain at the injection site, according to the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) Yellow Card reporting scheme data.

According to the MRHA, out of five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered, there have been 150 Yellow Card reports of death shortly after vaccination – mostly among the elderly or people with underlying illnesses.

Though these instances should not be dismissed, these remain reports and are not attributed to vaccination until they can be fully investigated.

While it is quite true that we do not know what the long-term effects of these vaccines will be, decades of experience inform that every vaccine approved for use in humans in the past 40 years that still exists on the market has not manifested side effects beyond two months after being administered.

The vaccines were first tested in animals and have been tested in humans since March of last year with large clinical trials last summer.

The trial participants are still being monitored with no reports of long-term effects to this point.

Vaccination should not be treated as a bogeyman and rejected outright.

We have collectively resiled ourselves to illogical fear too much over the course of this pandemic.

It is a voluntary choice that should be informed by research and assessment.

It is also something that should be weighed in consultation with your doctor and your family with the personal and public good in mind.

If you or someone you love is at risk of severe effects or death from COVID-19 and do not wish to take chances with the disease, then vaccination should be a serious consideration.

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