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The end of a roller coaster year of 2020 brings a new ray of hope, promising to fill the gaps this year has left. The virus outbreak left everyone confined to their personal space, and hence every ounce of effort was made to make our way back to freedom. We all realise social distancing and other preventive measures are not a permanent solution to this problem.
This brought us to the ultimate solution to this horrific major virus problem – the COVID-19 vaccine. A large number of vaccines have proved successful, and many are still in the stage of development.
But what is this vaccine? How will it proactively fight against the coronavirus? Everything you need to know is piled right here.
How does our immune system work?
Before we begin with the COVID-19 vaccine, let's briefly review the working of the body's immune system.
Human bodies are designed in a way to fight back germs that invade them. When germs start to attack and reproduce, they cause an illness termed as infection. As a result, our body gets triggered to use various tools to defend itself against the outer invasion.
The white blood cells are known as immune cells that fight infection by digesting germs, producing antibodies, or attacking infected cells.
How does the COVID-19 vaccine work?
A vaccine is basically used to prepare and train our immune system to recognise and resist the targeted bacteria or virus. If a body reencounters the same disease's germs, it will use its memory cells to fight back and remove the virus to prevent illness.
When a person gets infected with the COVID-19 virus, the body might take numerous days to generate and utilise all the fighting tools required to fight against infection.
Vaccines differ in the way they offer protection. Generally, they provide the body with memory cells – T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes – that helps the body to remember the defence process against COVID-19 germs.
Point to remember
A Human body typically requires a few weeks to develop these memory cells after vaccination. So chances are you might get infected with the COVID-19 virus right before or after vaccination and become sick since the vaccine didn't get enough time to produce effective defence.
Types of COVID-19 vaccines
Currently, three major types of COVID-19 vaccines have come to the surface.
This type of vaccine contains the virus material to instruct our cells to develop a harmless protein that can fight against COVID-19. After the copies of this protein are made, they collectively destroy the hereditary substance from the vaccine. Our bodies identify the protein as an outer impurity and develop memory cells to remember how to defend from future COVID-19 germs.
The authorised and recommended mRNA type vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are its finished forms.
Protein subunit vaccines
This vaccine contains only the harmless parts (protein) of the COVID-19 virus instead of the whole germ. Once vaccinated, our body will develop memory cells and become proactive in fighting against any future infection.
This vaccine contains a weak version of the active virus that comprises of the genetic substance causing COVID-19. This version is known as the viral vector. Once it enters our cells, the genetic substance instructs our cells to develop a unique protein, and our cells form copies of this protein. As a result, our body is prompted to generate memory cells to defend against any future infection.
How much does the COVID-19 vaccine cost?
One dosage of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine cost from $20 - $50. However, it might vary for recipients and governments of different countries may provide the dosage for free under various programs.
How much vaccine dosage is required?
Almost all tested COVID-19 vaccines require two shots. The first one starts developing protection. The second one is given at least after a week and is used to extract as much protection as the vaccine has to offer. The gap between the two shots is different for various vaccines. However, it requires a gap of 21 days typically and can be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks after the first dose.
How long will the immunity last?
So far, clinical trials are still being held to confirm the length of time for which the vaccine provides protection. Among people who have recovered from the COVID 19 virus, very few have been re-infected. The antibodies developed from the initial outbreak are still effective against the newer different versions of this virus. Researchers hope that the antibodies will protect us for a year or more.
The bottom line
Fighting back a pandemic requires all that is at hand. From masks to social distancing, every step needs to be followed to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. Vaccination is vital if you wish to protect yourself fully and to bid farewell to this global pandemic.