Science Says Sunday – A short primer about COVID-19 vaccines

Just as expected, this winter is turning out to be as dark as many forecasted this spring and summer. We know that coronaviruses generally have some seasonality aspect to them, but more so, we knew that as people moved indoors, the virus would spread far more easily than it had in the summer months. Why? Because in addition to droplet transmission that many of us knew about and tried to protect ourselves against, aerosol transmission is also possible with sars-cov-2. What does that mean? That means that in places that aren’t well-ventilated (eg our homes), the saliva and mucus that comes out of our nose and mouth (especially those super small droplets) tend to hang in the air and get breathed in by others who are around us. Read more about that here and here.

In the meantime, many of us continue to practice the things we know to work to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2:

  • Washing our hands
  • Wearing our masks
  • Watching our distance
  • Avoiding indoor spaces
  • Not gathering with non-household members

Because it takes a great deal of effort, in some cases, to be able to do all of those things, many of us have been super excited about the two new vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Announcements that these would be available for some members of the public resulted in a great deal of questions from the general public, but also a TON of misinformation. As per usual, we’re having to combat the #infodemic once again. Above I debunk a few of the myths that are circulating, but thought it would also be useful to give some background about how the vaccines were created.

I created the following Instagram posts to summarize in laymen’s terms how the two vaccines work:

It’s important to note that this is a very basic explanation of the way these vaccines work, but additional, detailed information can be found in a number of articles I will list below. In the meantime, I am 1) super excited that science has made this possible and 2) can’t wait to be able to get the vaccine myself.

For additional information, read the following articles (which I had to read just to put three Instagram slides together!):

An mRNA Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 — Preliminary Report

Nanomedicine and the COVID-19 vaccines

mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology

JAMA Network – Coronavirus Vaccines – An Introduction

The story of mRNA: How a once-dismissed idea became a leading technology in the Covid vaccine race

Developing mRNA-vaccine technologies (published in 2012!! I’m telling you, this technology is NOT NEW)

How Pfizer’s Vaccine Works

Bad News Wrapped in Protein: Inside the Coronavirus Genome

How mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna work, why they’re a breakthrough and why they need to be kept so cold

Understanding and Explaining mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in development

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