5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES!
There has been a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theories doing the rounds on social media regarding the Covid-19 vaccines in development.
HERE ARE THE FIVE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS I'VE BEEN ASKED ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES:
1) Why is a Covid-19 vaccine important?
So far, the Covid-19 virus has killed 1.3 million people worldwide, and infected over 54 million. Some people are taking months to recover.
Not only would an effective vaccine against Covid-19 save many lives, but it would enable our population to reach ‘herd immunity’. Once enough people are immune we will be able to safely socialise with friends and family once more.
2) How has this vaccine been developed so quickly? Doesn’t it take years to research new drugs?
People are concerned that the vaccine has been developed very quickly.
There are a couple of key reasons for this.
The pressure to find a vaccine against the virus that is causing this pandemic has meant scientific research has progressed more quickly than it would in normal times. This includes having access to all necessary funding.
Recent advances in technology and knowledge, especially advances in cancer research, have allowed this particular vaccine to be developed much more quickly than would previously have been possible
3) If this vaccine has been developed so quickly, how do we know it is safe?
Clinical trials are still taking place which is why no vaccine has yet been awarded a licence.
A license will not be awarded unless tests show that any vaccine is safe and effective.
The reasons trials are progressing so quickly is because there has been no shortage of volunteers and no shortage of funding to carry out the research.
In normal times it takes a long time to recruit enough volunteers to prove a vaccine is safe and effective. This year in the UK alone over 100,000 people volunteered to take place in Covid-19 vaccine trials. This is unprecedented.
The news that a number of vaccines are being developed by Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford/AstraZeneca is good. The associated clinical trials have had included tens of thousands of people (30000, 43000, & 24000 people respectively) and are very reassuring when it comes to demonstrating efficacy and safety.
4) What are the side effects?
It is important to remember that side-effects for vaccines are not common and are less dangerous than complications that can develop from contracting the actual virus itself.
For most vaccines, the side effects can include some minor inflammation at the injection site or mild fever for around 24 hours.
Once clinical trials are completed a complete list of side effects will be known. A vaccine would not be approved if the side effects were more common than the potential dangers of contracting Covid-19.
5) Does this vaccine interfere with your DNA?
No it does not.
Most current vaccines against viral diseases involve injecting either the killed virus or a live but attenuated version of the virus so the body will generate immunity.
The most high profile vaccine in the news this week from Pfizer/BioNTech is a new type of vaccine based on mRNA which does not require injecting any form of the original virus.
Synthetic mRNA is created in the lab, and it causes your own cells to produce specific proteins that are only found on the outside of the Covid-19 virus coat.
Your immune system then develops antibodies to these proteins without being exposed to the actual Covid-19 virus.
If you get infected by the real virus your body already has the antibodies and memory in the immune system to fight off the virus before you can get sick.
VACCINES HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD!
Along with clean drinking water, vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical intervention in history, and vaccines have eradicated smallpox entirely.
Currently we vaccinate against approximately 20 diseases in various parts of the world, saving around 3 million lives per year.
As there seems to be a lot of suspicion about who you can trust online these days so I had better clarify that I do not work for a pharmaceutical company. However, I do have an BSc in Biochemistey and a Masters in Public Health (having covered microbiology, immunology, public health interventions and epidemiology) and I have worked on epidemiological research projects, associated models and policy suggestions.
If you have any questions about vaccines please post them here and I’ll try and answer for you. If you find this useful please share. I will edit and update this post as more information becomes available or as more questions come in.
More information on how vaccines work in general found here: