Now that vaccination has started in many parts of the world against the COVID-19 virus, a common question arises of what vaccines really are.
A vaccine is a substance which arouses the immune system to produce immunity against a particular disease before you come in contact with the actual disease causing organism.
A vaccine usually consists of dead or weakened pathogens but vaccines can also contain only antigens. An antigen is the part of the pathogen that makes the body produce antibodies. Whenever a pathogen enters your body, your body prepares antibodies( Y shaped proteins) against it. Then your immune system, along with these antibodies, destroys the pathogens. When antibodies are produced, your body produces memory cells as well. When the same pathogen enters your body again, these memory cells instruct your body to immediately produce the antibodies against the particular pathogen and keep you free from getting infected again.
When a vaccine is injected ,your body prepares antibodies against the weakened pathogen and will keep you safe when the ‘real one’ comes in .When an unknown pathogen enters the body, the immune system may take a few days to prepare antibodies against it. Until then,it may make many copies of itself. So, it is always better to get vaccinated rather than to get the disease.
All this holds true with respect to the current COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines like Moderna and the Pfizer BioNTech are mRNA vaccines. They contain a strand of the messenger RNA of the virus and are relatively easier to make. There are vaccines that use the inactivated form of the virus like CoronaVac by Sinovac and Covaxin by Bharat BioTech.
Vaccines are life saving play a major role in ending the current pandemic.
Image 1 – Lipotype GmbH. “Lipid-Based Adjuvants in Vaccines | Vaccine Research with Lipotype GmbH.” Accessed January 31, 2021. https://www.lipotype.com/lipidomics-applications/lipidomics-in-vaccine-research/.