SARS-CoV-2 has been around long enough for us to know we don’t want it to infect us. It is no surprise that age is a risk factor along with immunosuppression and chronic medical conditions. Generally, individuals with these risk factors are fighting too many battles to have a robust immune army reserved for new attackers. Severe COVID-19 is a result of not only the virus doing well, but the immune army going haywire and inadvertently doing a lot of damage. If we can prevent severe COVID-19, we can prevent death. Both vaccines given the Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA in December, have been shown to do this. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a roughly 95% efficacy at preventing severe COVID-19.
These vaccines are mRNA vaccines – which means they do NOT carry the entire virus. They only carry a piece of nucleic acid that will force our ribosomes to make a key viral protein. That protein acts like a key to unlock the door into our cells. Unlocking the door leads to the virus making many more copies of itself inside our cells – damaging our cells in the process, and forcing a response from our immune system. The vaccine introduces our immune system only to this key protein – the resulting immune response is the army that will fend off a real-world exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the future. Vaccines work because this sort of designer immune army prevents the real “bug” from gaining a foothold in the body and causing havoc.
Now, the question is, WHY should we get vaccinated? There are several reasons. You may be someone with frequent exposure to SARS-CoV-2. You may have a chronic medical condition that puts you at high risk of disease severity. You may be a home caregiver for someone who is at high risk of disease severity. You may not want to be one of those previously healthy people with no risk factors who are still succumbing to the virus. Or you may just be one of many millions hoping to do your part to return our lives to normal as soon as possible.
The questions I get from my friends are whether I will get vaccinated and if I am afraid of the side effects or long-term consequences of the vaccine. My answer is yes. Yes, I will get vaccinated when it is my turn. Yes, I am a little anxious about the side effects, but far more anxious about the ravages of the virus itself. And lastly, what I am most anxious about is whether the vaccine will generate long term immunity and if yes, for how long. You may have heard of the COVID-19 long haulers by now – those individuals whose immune chemistry and virus attack have left them with long term consequences triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The novelty of this virus means that scientists are still determining the reasons for why SARS-CoV-2 leaves the body without much fuss in the case of some people, while in others, it kicks up a storm with an uncertain time frame. While we are trying to determine WHY there is even a dance between SARS-CoV-2 and the immune system instead of an all-out blitzkrieg, to me, the one certain thing seems to be the vaccine. I for one, will take it. Every day I look at the COVID-19 new cases and new deaths in the country and I am astonished and disappointed that it has come to this.
SARS-CoV-2 is a preventable infection. Wearing a face mask, keeping yourself at least 6 feet away from people who aren’t careful or in your “bubble”, paying strict attention to hand hygiene and environmental hygiene, staying home when sick, isolating yourself if and when you have COVID-19 – these and more are tactics proven to actually work. Recently, there have been news articles on face masks not working at preventing infections. If face masks don’t work, it is because they aren’t the right kind or they don’t have the right fit and comfort. To read more about an earlier blog post on facemasks, please click HERE. To learn how to create a facemask with great fit and comfort, please click HERE.
I leave you with one last thought for the year: please be careful and be smarter than SARS-CoV-2. Viruses are strict parasites, which means they will sputter to a halt if you deprive them of additional bodies to infect. If you wear the right mask correctly and engage in all the other prevention strategies, you will be able to deprive SARS-CoV-2 of your body. Wishing you a wonderful rest of the year.