Now that people are starting to receive vaccines against COVID-19, many people are looking forward to their turn in line. But because the first 2 COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are a new type, called mRNA vaccines, many people also have questions about how they work.
If you are still aware of mRNA vaccines, here is the essence: mRNA means messenger RNA, and the messages that carry these vaccines are like the instructions for your immune system.
All vaccines work by training your immune system to recognize and fight a specific germ before it has a chance to make you sick. Traditional vaccines use the germ itself for this “training,” either a weakened or dead form of the germ or a small part of the germ.
But mRNA vaccines have no germs! Instead, they offer a small strip of genetic code (the mRNA) that teaches your immune cells how to make and recognize a key protein, in this case, the tip protein on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
Once your immune system recognizes the spike protein, it reacts as it would to the actual COVID-19 virus, creating antibodies to combat it. Then, if the COVID-19 virus appears, the antibodies will be ready to stop it in its path.
To complete this vaccine fact-finding party, try offering your readers some tasty real sandwiches:
- MRNA vaccines cannot give you COVID-19. Remember that there are no viruses, and the tip protein cannot give you COVID-19 either.
- The 2 COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are safe and effective. The researchers worked as quickly as possible to prepare the vaccines, but did not skip any steps or cut any corners. The researchers completed everything that is usual phases of clinical trials and gave the vaccines to tens of thousands of people, so we can be sure they are safe and work to prevent COVID-19.
- MRNA vaccines do not change your genes. You may have heard that vaccine mRNA could remain in your cells and affect your DNA, but that’s not true. In fact, your body destroys the mRNA from the vaccine within hours of getting vaccinated. The mRNA appears, does its job, and then comes out!
- Serious side effects of these vaccines are rare and getting vaccinated is much less risky than getting COVID-19. It’s common for people who get the vaccine to have a headache or fever or feel tired and sore for a day or two, and that’s really good! These are indications that the vaccine is working.
And while you’re spreading the good news about the new vaccines, remember to encourage people to keep taking them other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 before i after being vaccinated. It will be a while before most people can get vaccinated, so it’s important to keep doing everything you can to keep everyone safe.
Bottom line: Explaining COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in plain language can help alleviate people’s fears and make them more likely to choose to get vaccinated.