The Science Behind the COVID-19 Vaccine

The Science Behind the COVID-19 Vaccine

Raghav Pallapothu, Science Columnist.

The COVID-19 Pandemic was probably one of the most devastating and separating times in United States history. For students at Vestal High School, it meant separation from friends and family for a year and the painful experience of Zoom.
Now as high school starts to switch to in-person learning, many students have been fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 Vaccine. But how exactly do people think is behind the vaccine and why do they think it is effective against COVID-19? Student Maksim Kovacevic states that he believes that the vaccine gives your immune system a “blueprint” of the virus so that your body could soon combat the virus in its later interactions.
Maksim’s idea is partially correct, but not fully. To fully understand the COVID-19 vaccine, we need to start from the beginning, the 1990s. During this time, a Hungarian named Katalin Kariko theorized using mRNA to fight diseases. The speculations, details, and statistics all made perfect sense as using mRNA to tell your body which proteins to make were an ingenious idea. It was also an idea that demoted her to lower ranks at the University of Pennsylvania. Later, Kariko started to make scientific developments at the University of Pennsylvania using mRNA and caught the eye of two scientists. These two scientists later founded Moderna and BioNTech who supervises Pfizer. The mRNA experiments showed up to be great innovations in medicine, and COVID-19 is an mRNA vaccine.
So how exactly does the vaccine work? The COVID vaccine first is given in the upper arm near the muscles. Once the mRNA is inside your body, it starts using muscle cells to make proteins. Once the protein is engineered, the cell starts to process the instructions and get rid of them.
Shortly after this, the cell starts to display the mRNA protein on it. Our immune system will then react to witnessing the protein and will start to build an immune response to fight it, which is how it would respond while fighting the natural infection of COVID-19. Finally, our immune system will have known how to fight and protect itself from an infection like this. The reason mRNA vaccines were beneficial for COVID-19 was that the host does not have to risk getting sick with COVID while getting the protection.
The COVID vaccine is a technological advancement that helped decrease the spike in many times of crisis during the pandemic. However, there are now new variants of COVID into play, like the Mu variant and the powerful Delta Variant. Those who are vaccinated are still at risk of acquiring these diseases, and it is our responsibility at Vestal High School to decrease quarantines and exposures here. This is done by correctly wearing our masks and staying a minimum of 3 feet away from others. By wearing masks we are not just keeping ourselves safe, we are keeping others safe. At Vestal High School, we believe in COVID safety.