THE frenzied and urgent pace of COVID-19 vaccine development has allowed researchers and scientists to showcase new technologies that have never been tested before at this massive scale as exemplified by the use of genetic engineering.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the results of an intricate intertwined relationship of the latest breakthroughs in the field of biochemistry, microbiology, and pharmacology. Known as nucleic vaccines, more specifically as RNA vaccines, these two American-based vaccines encode the antigen of interest into the messenger RNA (mRNA) of the host cell. The “antigen of interest” is the spike protein found on the surface of the virus which it uses to penetrate and invade the cells of the host, the patient.
At this juncture, it is important to emphasize – to allay the doubts as well as fears of patients – there are ZERO risks of the encoded gene integrating with our human genome or genetic code. Once inside the host cells, there is a large production of antigens which are now deployed unto the surface of the virus thereby detected by the person’s immune system, triggering the production of protective and defensive cells in the form of T lymphocytes, classified as cytotoxic cells because they can destroy and kill invading organisms and antibodies produced by plasma cells thru the intercession/stimulation by B lymphocytes.
Another way of looking at the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine having formulation along nucleic acid platforms is that the two vaccines use genetic material- its RNA- from a disease-causing virus- to stimulate an immune response against it, that is with the large number of spike proteins which the host cells produce following the “order or command” carried by the genetic material of the virus introduced into the host cell.
These two nucleic acid vaccines have been enjoying worldwide acceptability and if we may add, preference, probably because of their ability to challenge and eventually provoke massive Cell-mediated immunity, as well as Humoral immunity in the form of antibodies. An added advantage is the relative ease in their manufacture or production.
However, the downside – as some low as well as middle-income countries say – is the elaborate cold-chain or ultra-cold storage requirements. The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at minus 60 to minus 80 degrees Celsius (- 94 degrees Fahrenheit) while the Moderna vaccine needs minus 20 to minus 30 degrees Celsius (- 4 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast, most vaccines with approved EUAs have less fastidious temperature storage requirements, in which freezers in conventional refrigerators would maintain their safety and efficacy.
As with all COVID-19 vaccines with EUAs, there is the first dose-called priming dose – which informs our bodies of the presence of an invader, a foreign body, a non-self-entity, therefore an enemy which must be neutralized and better yet, destroyed and killed so as not to cause disease. T lymphocytes remember this first encounter and thus, as memory cells, they would recognize future meetings with the invading microbe. Booster doses are compulsory to alert those memory cells to provide the so-called “an amnesic response or memory-etched response” leading to enhanced, magnified antibody production.
With the possible exception of the Janssen vaccine-as of this writing, which requires only one jab or one injection, the rest requires a second dose; Pfizer gave after 21 days, Moderna after 28 days, Sinovac 21 days, Sputnik V 3 weeks, AstraZeneca 6-8 weeks.
These vaccines share common side effects – pain in the injection site, slight fever, fatigue, headaches, muscle, and joint pains. The whole world is aware of the CLS or capillary leak syndrome, associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, noticed in a few women less than 50 years, a rare bleeding disorder with low platelet count, which health authorities in some countries declared that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The same is said about the “heart effects; myocarditis and pericarditis” seen in young male vaccines, who had breathlessness, palpitations, and chest pains” a few days after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Most experts consider these symptoms mild and obviously, these vaccines are still very much in circulation.
Another concern that may explain the vaccine hesitancy of some persons is the probability of allergic reactions to the vaccines, an issue asked by those health professionals in the Screening portion of vaccination centers. Vaccines contain either polysorbate or polyethylene glycol which can trigger an allergic reaction in some patients, that’s why vaccinees are required to stay in the venue for 30 minutes after immunization
With variants of the COVID-19 virus outpacing the rollout of vaccines, the government encourages citizens to get immunized although the process is purely voluntary. Indeed life is made up of choices, the consequences of which are the person’s responsibility. Que sera, sera, STAY SAFE AND WELL!