Covid Virus & Vaccine

Covid Vaccine

One of the many considerations for deciding when and how to return to in-sanctuary worship, will be the success of the vaccine distribution. Have you signed up for that yet? Boulder County has an easy vaccine priority tool! Go to this website (www.bouldercounty.org/families/disease/covid-19/vaccines) and scroll down to the button “Sign up to be notified”. (Before clicking there, you may want to read about the phases of distribution, or about the vaccines themselves.) When you hit that button, you’ll be directed to a new page asking your name and email, along with what category you fall under. Submit that, and soon enough, it will be your turn, and the County will reach out with instructions on protecting yourself and your community!

 

 

Covid Virus

Some of you have met the Bromley family, new to town this year. Ron and Ena have jumped into NCPC through the Bible Study, mission work, and the Social Justice Working Group.

Both of them served as genetic epidemiologists before retiring to Nederland, and Ena recently wrote a get-to-basics description of what this virus is and how it works. If you’re interested in some science around this deadly disease and what scientists are doing to combat it, check it out below!

 

 

As we enter 2021, many of us have a yearning for things to be better than 2020. We want security in our future and to regain what was lost during the previous year. Yet, we are faced with disconcerting news about new mutations, new outbreaks, increased infection rates, and increased deaths.

Even those of us who are well-versed in medical terminology find ourselves having to refresh our vocabulary in immunology, virology and epidemiology as new information concerning the mechanisms of Covid-19 become available through ongoing research efforts. For those who are not in daily contact with these terminologies, receiving said information can become confusing and overwhelming.

For instance, what are viruses and why do they mutate? In short, a virus is a small agent (some would not even call it an independent life form) that needs to infect living cells in order to replicate. During this process, viruses frequently kill the cells they infect, setting off a cascade of negative immune responses in our bodies. Unfortunately, because viruses are vastly different from bacteria, they cannot be killed by medications such as antibiotics.

Since a virus is a collection of genetic codes, (in the case of Covid-19, this genetic code is called RNA) which is surrounded by protein, it can adapt by mutating its genetic code to try and outsmart the host body’s immune response. Each time a virus replicates, it has the possibility mutate. The more people it can infect, or the longer it can stay in a host without being destroyed, the higher the probability of it mutating and ultimately changing into a new variant. This is especially the case when Covid-19 infects chronically ill patients such as those suffering from HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.

Fortunately, our bodies have a defense mechanism – the immune system. One way to think of your immune system is to imagine a small army comprised of soldiers with different specialties. When a pathogen (any substance that can make one sick) such as the Covid-19 virus enters our bodies, our personal army goes into full defense, deploying its most common soldiers – the white blood cells. The white blood cells on the front lines are known as macrophages, who spring into action defending our bodies by gobbling up anything recognized as foreign. After they kill the invading virus, they leave behind parts of that virus called antigens. Our bodies then identify said antigens as dangerous and stimulates antibodies to attack them. Our second line of soldiers are B-lymphocytes. They are the ones who produce the antibodies that attack the antigens. To further defend us, we also have T-lymphocytes. These little soldiers kill cells in our body that have already been infected. There is also a type of T-lymphocyte called memory T-lymphocytes that memorize each “attack” or infection so that our bodies can spring into action quickly if the same virus is encountered again.

It can take some time (days to weeks) for our bodies to deploy all the defense mechanisms needed to help us get over an infection. Unfortunately, as is the case with Covid-19 in some cases, there could be so many virus particles (viral load) that our soldiers get overwhelmed by the enemy. If our body has been given a proper warning, it has a far better chance to activate our immune system in a timely manner. This is where a vaccine comes in. Fortunately, Covid-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus without us having to get the illness. Although once we get the vaccine, it can take a few weeks for the body to produce T and B-Lymphocytes that helps to protect us.

There are three types of vaccines that can activate our immune system against COVID-19 – mRNA, vector, and protein-subunit vaccines. Remember that none of these vaccines can give us Covid-19 because none of them contain the full genetic code for Covid-19, they only utilize specific parts. The newest type of vaccine is the mRNA vaccine. These vaccines contain a tiny part of RNA, which scientists have synthesized (created) in a lab from one of Covid-19’s spike proteins. This vaccine tricks the body into thinking that it is under attack because an unrecognized protein is being introduced. This activates the T and B-lymphocytes in our defense system which both allows our bodies remember COVID-19 and go through the process of making antibodies to fight it.  Another group of vaccines is called vector vaccines. These vaccines contain a harmless, weakened form of a live virus other than the Covid-19 virus. It then has a small part of the Covid-19 virus inserted through genetic engineering into the live virus’ genetic material. Once someone gets this vaccine, their bodies make copies of the protein from the tiny Covid-19 particle which sets off the process in our bodies to build T and B-lymphocytes to protect us in the future in case we get infected with the real Covid-19 causing virus. There is also a type of vaccine called protein-subunit vaccines. Similarly, to the mRNA vaccine, this vaccine only contains a small piece of Covid-19’s proteins. After vaccination our bodies respond to these unfamiliar proteins and are tricked into making T and B-lymphocytes that would protect us if we are ever infected with the real Covid-19 causing virus.

After getting any of the above-mentioned vaccines, our body is left with an arsenal of memory T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that are armed with the right information to fight the virus when we are exposed to it in the future. If enough of us take the vaccine, it eventually has nowhere to go and the pandemic could hence be controlled, this is known as herd-immunity. Unfortunately, a great deal of misinformation has made it into social media that causes people to be hesitant in taking the vaccine. It is normal for one to have symptoms such as a sore shoulder and light fever after taking a vaccine. It is a positive sign that our body is activating its immune system. Also, important to know, is that one is not immediately immune to the virus after getting the vaccine since it takes time for the body to manufacture those T and B-lymphocytes. It is possible to be infected with the virus just before or after the shot and it is therefore important to maintain social distancing and other safety measures until our immune response kicks in. The current vaccines also require two shots. The first shot is to start building up our body’s defense and the second is to make sure we have the most protection possible from the vaccine.

We are together in this pandemic. Therefore, as many of us as possible need to build immunity by taking the vaccine. Only then can we achieve our much-needed herd immunity. Just like our T and B-lymphocytes are “soldiers” collectively working together to defend us, we are also “soldiers” who need to work together to defend our communities. Getting a Covid-19 vaccine is one of the most important steps in taking action so that business can reopen, schools can be a safe place for our children, and so we can enter into a world post Covid-19. In the meantime, wearing a mask, washing our hands and maintaining social distancing can buy us time to help reduce our chance of exposure or transmitting it to friends or loved ones.

Speak Your Mind

*