Written by Rebecca A. Rosero, January 2021.
With vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2 virus rapidly appearing for use, questions and concerns for getting vaccinated are expected. From past experiences with other vaccines, we know that vaccines help protect ourselves from viruses and bacteria. Though not to be mistaken as a cure, vaccines have helped save the lives of countless individuals from various diseases.1 Therefore, vaccines have tremendous value, but as with anything with medicinal benefits, it must be approached with wisdom.
Some considerations for choosing whether to get the vaccine or not are the type of vaccine you are getting, how it works in your body, and how to know that your vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 was successful. Currently, the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are both mRNA vaccines and novel alternatives to other forms of vaccines.2,3
For a basic biology review, the cells in your body transcribe their DNA to mRNA, and that mRNA is then translated into specific proteins for the functions that the cell needs to be accomplished.
An mRNA vaccine takes advantage of this process, and your cells will translate the vaccine mRNA, as it would its own, making the proteins encoded by the vaccine mRNA. The vaccine mRNA for the SARS-CoV-2 has the genetic code for the spike antigens present on the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
By doing this, your cells are exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen without being exposed to the virus itself. Simply put, your immune system works by recognizing foreign antigens, mounting an immune response with antibodies, and specialized cells remembering the antigen for future reference so your immune system can react faster to better protect you from future exposures to this pathogen. Therefore, mRNA vaccines are beneficial because, before having any form of the virus in your body, your immune system can now recognize the spike antigen that was first learned from the mRNA vaccine of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and stop it before it invades your cells. Understanding the simple and yet potent action mechanism of mRNA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech offer a promising vaccine alternative.4
Given the rush in manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine, a valid concern would be its effectiveness. Being able to verify that the vaccine successfully guarded you against a future SARS-CoV-2 infection would help better your confidence in your immune system’s preparedness. If you choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine, you can take an antibody test after a period of time. Antibodies function by binding to antigens (proteins on the surface of pathogens like the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2) and help trigger the immune response. Antibody tests show the presence of antibodies. Since the purpose of the vaccine is to present the antigen to your body that would be seen by the pathogen, taking an antibody test after receiving the vaccine and seeing antibody formation can indicate that the vaccine successfully worked. The TrustPass tracking system can be used to easily check and manage the results of your antibody test and thereby track your vaccination success. This allows you to enter into public settings with ease of mind of your immune system’s defense and easily use the TrustPass app as a health passport for wherever you go.
Protecting yourself from SARS-CoV-2 has many aspects, from proper face coverings, regular disinfecting and handwashing, and social distancing. With increasing discovery, scientists and medical professionals gain insight into the function of SARS-CoV-2 and other disease-causing pathogens allowing innovations for protection and to better our health. From what has been seen, getting the COVID-19 vaccine could be another way to protect yourself and those you interact with daily. Whether you chose to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or not, every person can still strive to live a lifestyle to better their health and the health of others around them.
1 Greenwood, B. 2014. The contribution of vaccination to global health: past, present and future. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, (2014) 19; 369 (1645): 20130433, DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0433
4 Pardi, N et al. 2018. mRNA vaccines – a new era in vaccinology. Nat Rev Drug Discov, (2018) 17(4):261-279, DOI: 10.1038/nrd.2017.243