Written By: Davan Mulligan
How does it work?
To understand how the vaccine works, we need to first know how the virus infects humans. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is what causes the COVID-19 disease. The structure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has tiny bumps on its surface called spike proteins. These spike proteins are what allow the virus to enter the human body. Because of this, they are also the target for COVID-19 vaccines.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine works by using Messenger RNA (mRNA). So, what is Messenger RNA? Messenger RNA sends genetic data from the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein for the human body’s immune system cells to read. These cells create a fragment of the spike protein. The immune system can then see the newly made spike protein, and recognize that it is foreign. The immune system makes something called antibodies so the body can fight it off. So, if the time comes, the antibodies remember the virus and how to attack and rid the body of it. This prevents the body from becoming ill with the disease.
Full vaccine efficiency requires two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, separated by 21 days. Following the second dose, it will take around seven days for the vaccine to maximize immunity, after which the Pfizer-BioNTech has a 95% success rate at preventing COVID-19.
Who can be vaccinated?
As of now, children under the age of sixteen years old are not able take the vaccine because of a lack of testing to date on young people. Pregnant women are also not able to safely take the vaccine. At this time in British Columbia, frontline healthcare workers, residents and staff of longterm care-homes, and isolated indigenous communities are the only ones able to take the vaccine. In February, the government plans to make the vaccine available to more British Columbians, such as the homeless, people serving time in prison, medical staff, and indigenous communities not included in the first-round of vaccinations. As for the general public, many sources say vaccines will likely be available in September 2021.
What comes next?
Due to the demand for the vaccine and the size of our population, it will likely be a while before enough people are vaccinated to allow life to start to return to normal… or whatever the “new normal” will be once the pandemic has ended. It is likely that things will never return to exactly how they were before the pandemic. Hopefully, with the vaccines, things will finally begin to take a turn for the better. This pandemic has forever changed the way people see the world around them, and will continue to influence our lives in the future.