JoIf you have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, your number is likely to arrive soon. What can you expect when you get your shot? For many it’s not a day at the park, but for others they feel nothing. It is impossible for experts to predict who will feel good and who will not. In the vast majority of cases, any side effects you feel will end in a few days and there is no cause for concern.
But it is important that the medical and scientific communities talk about it temporary side effects of these vaccines, and that the public knows that there is a very low percentage of adverse reactions.
I am an immunologist who studies the fundamentals of immune responses to vaccination, so part of that responsibility lies with me.
Getting these vaccines will probably make a lot of people feel shit for a few days. This is a much better prospect than long-term illness or death. In case you’re wondering why it makes someone feel bad, I’ll tell you.
The little dirty secret of immunology
In 1989, immunologist Charles Janeway published an article summarizing the state of the field of immunology. Until then, immunologists had proposed that immune responses be initiated when the immune system encountered anything strange (bacteria, viruses, and parasites) that it determined was “not its own.”
Janeway suspected that there was something else in the story and famously expounded what was known “The little dirty secret of the immunologist”: Your immune system doesn’t just respond to all the weird things. He responds to foreign things that he perceives to be dangerous.
Now, 30 years later, immunologists know that your immune system uses a complex set of sensors to understand not only whether something is strange or not, but also what kind of threat, if any, a microbe might pose. You can differentiate between viruses (such as SARS-CoV-2) and parasites, such as tapeworms, and activate specialized arms in your immune system to treat them. these specific threats accordingly. You can even control the level of tissue damage caused by an invader and increases your immune response to match.
Perceiving the type of threat posed by a microbe and the level of intensity of that threat allows your immune system to select the right set of responses, apply them accurately, and avoid the real danger of immense reactions.
Vaccine adjuvants carry the danger we need
Vaccines work by introducing a safe version of a pathogen for a patient’s immune system. Your immune system remembers your past encounters and responds more efficiently if you see the same pathogen again. However, it only generates memory if the vaccine contains enough warning signs to initiate a solid immune response.
As a result, the need for your immune system to perceive danger before responding is both extremely important and very problematic. The danger requirement means that your immune system is programmed not to respond unless a clear threat is identified. It also means that if I am developing a vaccine, I have to convince your immune system that the vaccine is a threat worth taking seriously.
Scientists can get it in various ways. One is to inject a weakened version (what immunologists call attenuated) or even killed a pathogenic version. This approach has the advantage of presenting a pathogen almost identical to the “real” pathogen, triggering many of the same danger signs and often resulting in strong long-term immunity, as seen in polio vaccination. It can also be risky: if you have not weakened the pathogen enough and deployed the vaccine too quickly, there is a possibility of inadvertently infecting a large number of vaccine recipients.
A safer approach is to use individual components of the pathogen, harmless on their own, but able to train your immune system to recognize what is real. However, these parts of the pathogen often do not contain the warning signals needed to stimulate a strong memory response. As a result, they need to be supplemented with synthetic warning signs, which immunologists call “adjuvants”.
Adjuvants are safe, but designed to ignite them
To make vaccines more effective, entire laboratories have been dedicated to testing and development again adjuvants. They are all designed with the same basic purpose: to put the immune system into action in a way that maximizes the effectiveness and longevity of the response.
To do this, we take advantage of the same sensors that your immune system uses to detect damage in an active infection. This means that while they will stimulate an effective immune response, they will do so by producing temporary inflammatory effects.
At the cellular level, the vaccine triggers inflammation at the injection site. The blood vessels in the area become a little more “leaky” to help recruit immune cells to the muscle tissue, causing the area to turn red and swell. All of this triggers a total immune response in a lymph node somewhere nearby that will develop over the weeks.
As for the symptoms, this can cause redness and swelling at the injection site, stiffness and pain in the muscle, tenderness and swelling of the local lymph nodes and, if the vaccine is strong enough, even fever (and the usually associated shitty feeling).
This is the balance of vaccine design: maximizing protection and benefits while minimizing protection uncomfortable but necessary side effects. This does not mean that there are no serious side effects: they do – but they are extremely rare. Two of the most discussed serious side effects, anaphalasia (a severe allergic reaction) i Guillain-Barré syndrome (nerve damage due to inflammation), occur at a frequency of less than 1 in 500,000 doses.
Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2
Early data suggest that the Modern and the Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines are highly effective – more than 90%. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also highly effective, although it was not developed using mRNA technology. All three are able to stimulate robust immune responses, with sufficient danger signaling, to prevent severe COVID-19 in more than 9 out of 10 patients. It is a high number in no case and suggests that these vaccines are potent.
In an early release of the phase 3 test data, more than 2% of Modern vaccine recipients they experienced what they classified as serious temporary side effects, such as fatigue and headaches. However, milder side effects are common: particularly after the second dose. These are signs that the vaccine is doing what it was designed to do: train your immune system to respond to something you might otherwise ignore, so it will protect you later. This does not mean that the vaccine has given you COVID-19.
It all comes down to this: by getting vaccinated, you are protecting yourself, your loved ones, and your community from highly transmissible material. deadly disease. It can take you a few days to feel bad.
You may have redness and pain in your arm where you have had the shot, fatigue, muscle aches, chills, and nausea, but these symptoms will not last long.
You will be monitored for 15-30 minutes after getting the vaccine to detect more serious side effects, which are rare.
Side effects do not mean that you have contracted COVID-19. Vaccines work by shaping your immune system to recognize and remember a pathogen in a safe way.
Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter painkillers in case you have flu-like symptoms after the vaccine, but do not take painkillers before the vaccine.