Answers To Frequently Asked Questions – COVID-19 Vaccines

Category: COVID-19 and Coronaviruses.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions – COVID-19 Vaccines

We are excited about the vaccines to become available; at the same time, there are concerns about the vaccines’ safety, efficacy, and side effects.

We have compiled a list of the most common questions and their answers here.

Note: COVID-19 is still an evolving situation. Vaccines, even more so. Hence, the information provided here is for educational purposes only, it is temporary, and it may prove to be incorrect as more data and research come to light.

  • There are fatalities. Does that make the vaccines dangerous?

    • Unfortunately, there has been one fatality in Moderna’s vaccine trial from the placebo group. Similarly, there has been a fatality from Pfizer’s vaccine trial as well from the placebo group. COVID-19 in the vaccinated group did not result in deaths. This is critical learning proving that the vaccines are protective of the serious COVID-19.
  • Can vaccines change our DNAs?

    • mRNA-based vaccines bring RNA into our cells. Our ribosomes pick up these RNAs to translate them into proteins. Ribosomes are cytoplasmic machinery. RNA has nothing to do with a cell’s nucleus or DNA.
  • Can I take the first dose of a vaccine from one company and then the second dose from another company?

    • In theory, you could. However, the dosage, the immune response type, the side effects, etc., are not fully understood. Hence, it is wise to get two doses of the same vaccine. A trial is about to start in the UK, which will test more than one type of vaccine administered to observe the outcomes. We will know more in the future.
  • Do I need vaccination after recovering from COVID-19?

    • In theory, you do not. The reason is that your successful handling of the COVID-19 disease means your immune system was able to mount a good response, and it should have the memory cells for the future handling of the SARS-COV-2. Despite the protection already generated, experts are advising to get the vaccine anyway.
    • Another reason to get the vaccine may be a change to our immune system status. For example, immune suppression or immune compromise due to health status changes or the beginning of a new medication that might modulate the immune system. In such cases, you should discuss with your doctor and possibly take the vaccine.
  • Can a vaccine cause antibody-dependent-enhancement (ADE?)

    • Antibody-dependent enhancement usually occurs when a weakened virus is administered as a vaccine. Our immune system generates binding antibodies against this virus. These binding antibodies may not be sufficient to neutralize the virus in the future. These binding antibodies may coat the virus and allow it to be phagocytosed in the immune cells. This pathway of entry into the immune cells may result in a possible infection of these cells. In the case of Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, the antibodies generated are specific and neutralizing. Hence, their presence, in theory, will neutralize the virus. In conclusion, the antibody-dependent enhancement will be a rare or theoretical possibility in Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines.
  • Can I be infected after getting the vaccines?

    • Infection means the arrival of the virus in our body. A vaccine does not protect from the virus entry into our body. Hence, yes, you can be infected. However, the virus replication and damage that leads to symptoms is called disease. Vaccine’s objective is to prevent the disease altogether or prevent it from progressing to a severe state.
    • Note also that the vaccine companies (Moderna and Pfizer) started counting the protection from the 14th day after the second dose (Moderna) or the 28th day after the second dose. That means they feel that you might get infected and develop COVID-19 during this window of time. We believe that their rationale is that the immune system needs time to learn and ramp up its defenses during this window fully.
  • Will the vaccine work as effectively in older individuals as they do in younger individuals?

    • Yes. The trial data has suggested that the difference of efficacy between various age groups is negligible.
  • Can I take the COVID vaccine with the flu vaccine?

    • Yes, you can. However, it is recommended not to take both of these vaccines together. Separately taking the vaccines will allow your physician to assess the responsible vaccine for any side effects.
  • Are there long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines?

    • As the vaccination trials are only a few months old, long term side effects are not known.
  • Can I get COVID-19 from a vaccine?

    • No. A vaccine (mRNA based) only generates the spike proteins of the virus. These spikes are then presented on a cell’s surface in a controlled manner. That is, on MHC-I or MHC-II complexes. This presentation, in turn, leads to immune system readiness and training against the SARS-COV-2 virus. Because the vaccine helps produce only the spikes and no other enzyme or part of the virus, you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
  • Should I rather get infected instead of vaccinated?

    • Infection from the virus has the potential to be lethal in some individuals. On the other hand, the vaccines are tested to make sure that they are safe. Both events train our immune system for protection. However, the actual infection can also kill us.
  • Is an mRNA vaccine better than a virus-based vaccine?

    • mRNA vaccines are super targeted in their presentation and their action. That is, they are wrapped in lipid nanoparticles, which bring the mRNA into a cell. Where the mRNA helps make the spike proteins. An adenovirus-based vaccine (AstraZeneca) has a virus particle performing the role of the lipid nanoparticle. In theory, they both are similarly safe.
  • mRNA vaccines are new. Hence, we do not know if these are safe?

    • mRNA vaccines have been tested for other viruses since 2013. Their safety profiles are understood. Their administration in trials for Moderna and Pfizer have further helped understand their safety.
  • Are there vaccines with the weakened virus?

    • None of the front-runner SARS-COV-2 vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, CanSino) are weakened SARS-COV-2 viruses. For other diseases, there are weakened virus vaccines.
  • Do COVID-19 vaccines have fetal tissue?

    • That’s not correct. Fetal cells are used during the development of a vaccine. The virus particles (adenovirus in case of AstraZeneca) may be replicated in the cloned fetal human cells. Currently, in the biotech industry, there are two lines of fetal cells that are used: HEK-293 are kidney cells harvested from an electively aborted fetus in 1972. These cells are cloned in the labs for testing and growing viruses. The other line of cells is PER.C6. These are cells from the retina of an electively aborted fetus from 1985. This line is proprietary and is owned by Janssen. Janssen is a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. For the SARS-COV-2 vaccines like the AstraZeneca vaccine, the adenovirus may be grown in these cells. Once enough viruses are replicated in these cells, the cells are lysed (broken) using chemicals and the virus harvested. This virus is the vaccine, not fetal tissue. In summary, vaccines do not contain fetal cells.
  • Do COVID-19 vaccines have nano-chips?

    • There is no evidence of nano-chips in the vaccines.
  • Our cells will make millions of spike proteins and release them in the tissue, which will cause ACE2 binding. Bad things will happen. Is this correct?

    • No, it is not. The spike proteins created inside our cells will be loaded on MHC-I complexes and presented on the cell surfaces. Macrophages, dendritic cells, and neutrophils will mop up any spike proteins spilled in the tissue due to the breaking of a cell that presents the spike protein on its MHC-I. These immune cells will, in turn, present these spike antigens on their MHC-II complexes activating the immune system. In short, there will not be tons of spike proteins spread in the tissue fluids to cause any harm.

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