I have felt very positive about the vaccines (that’s something of an understatement), and it’s really good to get confirmation and explanation from someone who has worked in the field for more than three decades.
From an immunologist
by Mark Bonyhadi, Seattle, Washington
I am an immunologist with over 30 years “deep-in-the-trenches” experience in immunology, virology and vaccine development. I have worked with Tony Fauci, who is a mentor to many of us and an honorable man, giving the best advice as well learning about this new virus strain. Listen to him. He is wise.
This new Corona Virus strain that has been affecting us so profoundly is very much like so many other viruses……always changing. This strain changed to become highly infectious in humans with unwanted side effects. Most people either barely notice anything or get mild-to-severe flu-like symptoms (with some unique symptoms for this particular strain), but a relatively small number of people have severe responses. This is the normal way viruses have evolved and worked over many thousands of years.
The good news is we have immune systems that are designed to recognize the “foreign” virus, and get rid of it, both by an active immune response (T cells that kill virus-infected cells) and by a passive immune response (antibodies that bind to the virus particles and inactivate/clear them from the body). This usually works great, but sometimes, as we get older, or experience some immune-suppressive therapies, our response may be slower and weaker but generally still there.
Vaccines are great! They are designed to make your body think you have been infected with a virus (but the vaccines are “mimics” that are not infectious, but look like the virus) and start to make an immune response. The second dose of vaccine is to build and expand the army of killer T cells and circulating antibodies stimulated by the first dose, to levels high enough to possibly prevent new infection, or if a low level infection occurs, the immune system is well equipped to rapidly get rid of the low level infection with its killer T cells and antibody responses.
After you are vaccinated, you will either be resistant to infection, or get a low-grade infection, which you can rapidly respond to with your “newly-educated” immune system. This happens very quickly (usually 2-3 days……might feel like the flu).
Yes, it is true that there are rare cases of bad side effects of the vaccine, but these are very, very low…..and we typically see this in all vaccines and medicines we make….because everyone is different in how they respond. The clinical trials for the approved vaccines are shorter than usual, so the long-term effects aren’t fully understood, but really will likely be fine with regard to long-term immunity. For the relatively rare event of a serious side-effect from getting vaccinated (if you are the very rare case……..e.g. anaphylaxis), these generally can be treated at a clinic or medical center….so just hang around 15-30 minutes after the vaccine to make sure you feel ok. That’s it. Good to go.
Lastly, masks are good. They give you a little protection from getting infected, but really work if you or someone is a carrier (asymptomatic) and able to transmit the virus. The mask blocks the spread from the infected person pretty well. Combining that with social distancing, regular Covid-19 testing, and good hygiene (washing hands, etc.) makes this a very potent way to reduce your risk of getting infected or infecting others.
If you practice those simple steps, we will get through this quickly as we all get in line for the vaccine.
You may be getting a vaccine shot every year, like for the flu, to adjust for the new variations that always occur (this is how viruses work….nothing scary), and this can turn a virus that might be deadly for 1:1000 people to a virus that we can all live with.
Wear your mask as per CDC guidelines. It shows that you respect the people around you and that we are all together in this effort, because we care about each other……and, because when we work together, we can do amazing things.