What is the COVID-19 Vaccine? Part 2

What is the COVID-19 Vaccine? Part 2

In January, I covered the biological basis of the newly emerging COVID-19 vaccines. However, since the vaccine rollout became more widespread, an increasing hesitancy to take the vaccine has arisen. This may be for various reasons, such as COVID infection post-vaccination or simply not trusting the science behind vaccination. If it is the latter, it may be worth disposing of any item in your house made by those in a scientific research background, as they too will have little value to you (paracetamol should be dumped as quickly as possible, for your safety). Scientific research, be it biological, chemical, or physical usually underpins modern medicine. Whether that is research into the way in which the human body works, designing new drugs to treat infection, or invention/refinement of diagnostic machinery. The value of research cannot be understated.

It is important to be clear that vaccinations have never and will never be linked to an overarching plan in which the vaccine is inadvertently used to bring people harm. You have every right to refuse a vaccine but spreading misinformation to those yet to receive it will cause more harm than the vaccine itself. This post will follow on from a previous post “What is the COVID-19 vaccine?”, and address some points raised by people hesitant to receive the vaccine.

Double-vaccinated and still contracted COVID

In early June, I tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced symptoms even after being double vaccinated. As a follow-up to the previous article addressing common misconceptions of the vaccine, it is doubly important to address the narrative that the vaccine is not effective. So, the main question is: How can I be vaccinated, but still get COVID?

There are three administered vaccines within the UK (Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech), all follow the same mRNA-vaccine technology as discussed previously, but they each have varying rates of protection. However, the consensus is that after a single dose of the vaccine the likelihood of symptomatic infection decreases by 70% (Bernal et al., 2021), with this likelihood decreasing further after the second dosage. This means you are 70% less likely to be symptomatic. Like all vaccines, they do not offer 100% protection (McNeil, 2020). However, there is an important concept known as cost-effectiveness. This principle balances the cost of the disease against the cost of vaccination (McNeil, 2020). Therefore, if the cost of the vaccine outweighs the cost of the disease the vaccine is unlikely to be administered or researched. In the case of COVID-19, the cost of the disease outweighs the cost of the vaccine. With the COVID-19 vaccine, the rate of hospitalisation decreased by 76% after the first phase of the vaccine rollout in the UK (Lintern, 2021). If that isn’t enough proof that getting the vaccine is a positive thing, let’s delve deeper.

It is completely possible and the case for most vaccines that you can contract the disease after being inoculated, this can be for a range of reasons which you can read up on here: http://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/vk/disease-vaccinated-populations

The most relevant factor on this list for COVID is the evolution and changing of the virus itself, the most concerning of the variants is the Delta variant (B.1.617.2). This variant was first found in India and has an increased transmission rate as well as decreasing the vaccine’s efficiency. While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine retains 79% effectiveness against the delta variant, Oxford-AstraZeneca’s effectiveness ranges between 60-73% effective (The Covid Delta variant: how effective are the vaccines?, 2021). Therefore, worst-case scenario there is a 40% chance you may still contract COVID-19.

So, should you still get the vaccine? In short, yes. The vaccine prepares your immune system for infection by a COVID virus of a similar kind regardless of strain. Whilst the Delta strain is able to infect due to relative unfamiliarity at first, the vaccine provides your body with the means to deal with it upon recognition. Viruses and all pathogens aim to avoid the immune system. The variants of COVID-19 are able to do exactly that for a short period of time when they arise as a new variant, thus infection. However, once recognised, the body can adapt to the variant quickly and trigger an effective immune response clearing the infection much faster than without. In my case, symptoms included: mild headache, loss of taste and smell, and fatigue.

So, what’s the point if you’re still able to get COVID? The answer is protection against serious symptoms and the condition called long-covid. I recovered from COVID in 5 days, and during that time I was able to function relatively normally. Furthermore, my taste was lost for a maximum of 6 days. Whereas others who suffered from COVID whilst unvaccinated have claimed their sense of smell and taste was lost for a month or even longer (Marshall, 2021). In addition, the vaccine prevents COVID from being able to replicate as much as it would normally within the cells that support your sensory neurones in the nose (responsible for taste and smell), therefore lessening the symptomatic presentation and time it takes for the body to recover.

I trust the above clarifies but Cedric can forward me any further concerns which I shall look into, schedule depending.

Bibliography:
Bernal, J. L., Andrews, N., Gower, C., Robertson, C., Stowe, J., Tessier, E., … & Ramsay, M. (2021). Effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines on covid-19 related symptoms, hospital admissions, and mortality in older adults in England: test negative case-control study. bmj, 373.

Guardian, the. 2021. The Covid Delta variant: how effective are the vaccines?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 June 2021].

Lintern, S., (2021). Vaccines cut Covid hospitalisations in England by 76%, new research shows. [online] The Independent. Available at: [Accessed 15 June 2021].

Marshall, M. (2021). COVID’s toll on smell and taste: what scientists do and don’t know. Nature, 589(7842), 342-343.

McNeil, S. (2020). Overview of vaccine efficacy and vaccine effectiveness. Canadian Center for Vaccinology. https://www. who. int/infl uenza_ vaccines_plan/resources/Session4_VEffi cacy_VEff ectiveness. PDF.

Vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk. 2020. Disease in vaccinated populations | Vaccine Knowledge. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 June 2021].

What is the COVID-19 Vaccine?

What is the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Introduction to vaccines:

Vaccines are an integral part of ensuring immunity against diseases that have wrought havoc on human populations prior to today. Some of the most famous vaccines include Smallpox, MMR (Mumps, Measles, and Rubella), HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), and polio. Typically vaccines contain an inactive or weakened form of the pathogen (disease-causing agent), allowing us to develop an immunity to the disease with minimal side-effects and symptoms. The COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-19) Pfizer vaccine differs, in that it is an mRNA vaccine, more on that later. This will attempt to provide a brief explanation of how the vaccine was developed so fast, what it contains and how it induces immunity.

How was it made so fast?

Many people are alarmed by the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccine was developed. However, this needn’t be a point of worry. COVID-19 research has perhaps been one of the most well-funded area within medical research, of our time (Ball, 2020). This is due to both private and public funds being donated to stop the spread of the virus which has robbed us, for the most part, of our freedom. As a result, the speed at which research could be conducted increased, due to funds to afford laboratory reagents. It is important to note also, that clinical trials could be conducted on a mass scale with the huge uptake of volunteers. Therefore, the combination of funding and uptake of volunteers decreased the time it would have taken to develop the vaccine. In America, at the 1 million vaccination point only 3 have demonstrated an allergic reaction, so this shouldn’t be seen as a threat. Furthermore, there are guidelines in place to prevent and treat anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions), should it occur (Cdc.gov, 2020).

What is in it?

Sometimes, the ingredients of vaccines are more intimidating when left as is. Minimal explaination can dispel anxiety regarding the contents of a vaccine. The ingredients disclosed on the FDA website (Fda.gov, 2020) are as follows:

  • mRNA – message to tell our body to produce the COVID-19 spike protein
  • Lipids – helps the mRNA enter our cells – our cell’s membranes are also lipids
  • Potassium chloride – KCl – naturally found in the body
  • Monobasic potassium phosphate – found in the body
  • Sodium chloride – NaCl – table salt – also naturally found in the body
  • Dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate – found in foods and water softening treatment
  • Sucrose – Table Sugar

As you can see from above, the components of the vaccine are not as intimidating as thought. Many of the components are found in our everyday life, and in many cases, we consume more of some components in our diet than in a vaccine.

What does it do?

The vaccine, as mentioned before, works differently in our bodies. Traditional vaccines trigger resistance through exposure to the pathogen. In the case of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, it introduces mRNA, which our body turns into the COVID-19 spike protein (the protein responsible for COVID-19 recognising and infecting our cells, Figure 1; Huang et al., 2020).

Figure 1 – BioRender schematic showing the COVID-19 spike protein (Diana Sofia Mollocana Yanez), and the use of the spike protein to enter our cells during infection (Hartenian et al., 2020).

mRNA is naturally found in our cells and is made from our DNA as a message which is made into a protein that usually performs a function, or results in a trait (Figure 2A; Hargrove and Schmidt, 1989). Therefore, this vaccine is using a process our body performs all the time. However, when the COVID-19 spike protein is made from the mRNA in the vaccine (Figure 2B), the body recognises it as non-self, starts an immune response and we generate immunity as a result.

A                                                                                         B

             

Figure 2 – A) Normal process of protein production in our cells B) Process of spike protein production through vaccine’s introduction of mRNA which tells the cell to produce the spike protein, which triggers an immune response, and subsequent immunity. Schematics made on BioRender.

There are some common conspiracies, that this vaccine enters our genome, or it contains a chip for government tracking. To dispel these, mRNA cannot enter DNA (thus, our genome), as DNA and RNA are similar, but different molecules, which cannot stably co-exist as one. Furthermore, RNA cannot become DNA without an enzyme not found in our body. Also, in the impossible circumstance, it does become DNA, it cannot enter our genome without identical DNA sequences on either side of the gene. As for the chip, there is nothing more I can say than this is false. If you are concerned, however, your smartphone tracks your GPS, your internet searches, and monitors who you contact, the government already has the means to track you, so a chip in a vaccine would not be efficient. It is concerning that people are turning against vaccines which have helped to increase life expectancy, and are the right first step in ending the pandemic and returning to everyday life.

DNA vs. RNA — Differences & Similarities - Expii

Figure 3 – Schematic demonstrating the molecular difference between DNA and RNA, in this case RNA has a riobose sugar with a hydroxide group (OH) on the 2nd Carbon. Whereas, DNA’s deoxyribose has a hydrogen (H) at the 2nd Carbon. Additionally, DNA and RNA contain the bases: Adenine, Guanine, and Cytosine. However, DNA contains Thymine, whilst RNA, contains Uracil – an altered thymine. Image taken from (Slizewska, G., n.d)

Bibliography:

  • Ball, P. (2020), ‘The lightning-fast quest for COVID vaccines-and what it means for other diseases’. Nature.

 

  • Cdc.gov. (2020). ‘Management Of Anaphylaxis At COVID-19 Vaccination Sites’ | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/pfizer/anaphylaxis-management.html>

 

  • Fda.gov. (2020). ‘FACT SHEET FOR RECIPIENTS AND CAREGIVERS’. [online] Available at: <https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download#:~:text=The%20Pfizer%2DBioNTech%20COVID%2D19%20Vaccine%20includes%20the%20following%20ingredients,)%2C%20potassium%20chloride%2C%20monobasic%20potassium>

 

  • Hargrove, J.L. and Schmidt, F.H., (1989). ‘The role of mRNA and protein stability in gene expression’. The FASEB Journal3(12), pp.2360-2370.

 

  • Hartenian, E., Nandakumar, D., Lari, A., Ly, M., Tucker, J.M. and Glaunsinger, B.A., (2020). ‘The molecular virology of Coronaviruses’. Journal of Biological Chemistry295(37), pp.12910-12934.

 

  • Huang, Y., Yang, C., Xu, X.F., Xu, W. and Liu, S.W., (2020). ‘Structural and functional properties of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein: potential antivirus drug development for COVID-19’. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica41(9), pp.1141-1149.

 

  • Slizewska, G., (n.d). ‘DNA Vs. RNA — Differences & Similarities – Expii’. [online] expii. Available at: <https://www.expii.com/t/dna-vs-rna-differences-similarities-10205>
Wonderfully Scientific – Wellcome Collection, London

Wonderfully Scientific – Wellcome Collection, London

Whilst visiting London, Cedric wanted to find an art gallery near London Euston. He suggested the Wellcome Collection. Unbeknownst to him, the Wellcome Trust funds the Sanger Institute, one of the world’s leading centres for genomic science. I just so happened to forget to mention and (probably for the last time), was able to drag Cedric around a wonderful museum and library centered around Human Health.

Founded by Sir Henry Wellcome, the Wellcome Trust has aimed to improve health by investing in researchers who are focussing on the most prescient threats to global health. Whilst, simultaneously, educating the public on the importance of medical scientific research. The museum certainly reflected this. Although, the Play-Well Exhibition which is running until March 2020, was somewhat confusing and underwhelming. Seemingly showcasing the way in which children play and the media in which they do so has changed over time, with imagination seemingly fading and digital entertainment captivating the younger generations.

Most interesting, for me, was the permanent exhibition “Being Human.” Within, it showcased the ins and outs of human health. Including a transparent 3D anatomical model of a woman in which the organs would illuminate when you press the corresponding button, a valuable and engaging educational tool that all ages were interacting with, even if they don’t know what the cecum is…

An eye-opening piece within this exhibition demonstrated bacteria generating antibiotic resistance to exceedingly high doses within 11 days. An incredibly pressing matter as bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment due to the misuse of antibiotics, so it was refreshing to see an exhibition drawing attention to that.

However, the Wellcome Collection had other exhibitions such as “Medicine Man,” demonstrating medicine’s evolution throughout history. It was certainly worth a mooch, but not for the squeamish as there is a mummified body.

Cedric was most delighted with the library and reading room which sits at the top of this museum, it boasts hundreds of books all pertaining to human health and even has some exhibition pieces including a sliver of anatomist Dr. Gunther Von Hagen’s human dissection work, which demonstrated the complexity and beauty of the human body.

Overall, this was a brilliant museum which opens your eyes to the evolution of medicine, and how that had led to the research being conducted today. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Wellcome Collection if you’re ever around London Euston.

St Peter’s Church, Explosive Ecclesiastical Lunch, Marlborough

St Peter’s Church, Explosive Ecclesiastical Lunch, Marlborough

St Peter’s church stands at the end of Marlborough High Street near to Marlborough College, this was also where Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was ordained on the 10th March 1948. Despite having lived in the Marlborough area since I was eight, I have only discovered it now at the age of 20. The cafe itself is contained within a portion of the church, with a separate area also dedicated to crafts and art produced by local artisans.

The traditional layout of the cafe lulls one into a false sense of security. What transpired soon outgrew what is to be expected. The food and hospitality which followed can be described only as exceptional. Cedric and I both opted for breakfast dishes which was apt for the time we’d arrived. Cedric had the full English breakfast, from which the sausages were the stand out (pictured below), but the hand cured bacon was equally as impressive.

I had the vegetarian alternative to a full English (pictured below), which was a perfect example of culinary coherence. Every aspect of the dish meshed successfully with one another. So much so that, unusually, I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on the meat before me.

A sign of a good cafe is their ability to make something as simple as a poached egg phenomenal. This was exactly what St Peter’s Cafe did. Pictured below are poached eggs on toast, which were divine. Oozing with yummy yolk, these gave me a cocky desire to vault the table and quite rub my face deeply within our guest’s plate. Did you notice the subtle chicken pun there? Overlooked it because chickens don’t lay eggs? Either way, this dish was a winner (and a chicken dinner). That was the last one, I promise.

I was mesmerised by the dessert selection. All are handmade, and from what we sampled, delicious. I had scones with clotted cream and lemon curd. What impressed me was the size of the scone, it was massive and is pictured below, I would highly recommend this.

However, Cedric ordered what was for me, the showstopper: (pictured below)the Belgian waffle. Alas this was the only item that wasn’t handmade. It was topped with warm cherry coulis and vanilla ice cream. The combination of all the flavours was quite astonishing, and the contrast between the ice cream and the warmth of the coulis elevated this dessert.

This was not only exceptional food, but the atmosphere in which we dined was unforgettable. If ever you find yourself in Marlborough, St Peter’s Church is the place to visit. It earned the title of number one place to eat in Marlborough on Trip Advisor. But, if you intend to visit around lunchtime be sure to call ahead and make a reservation, or you may not get a seat!

 

 

Diseases Associated with Ageing – A Biological Essay

Diseases Associated with Ageing – A Biological Essay

Hi guys, Matthew here. I’m a new guest blogger on Cedric Suggests. This is my first time so please be gentle… I wrote an essay about three diseases associated with ageing which might be of some interest to you. Do read the following and let me know your thoughts.

The musculoskeletal system is something we all rely on to live our day to day lives, when we age there are changes which occur, altering our ability to do so. This essay explores three of these changes and how research is providing insight into preventing and reversing these changes.

Explain Musculoskeletal System Changes Which Occur in Humans as a Consequence of Ageing