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How different COVID-19 vaccines provide immunity

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 10:55 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -The last two days have been historic for healthcare and those receiving the first COVID-19 vaccinations.

“The way this vaccine works it takes all of us coming together and one last big effort as a community to get over this hump,” family physician Dr. Sebastian Lane said after getting one of the first vaccinations in Omaha.

It’s historic not only because it’s the first COVID-19 vaccine but because it’s the first vaccine using a messenger RNA.

“It’s exciting for the future as well this is a brand new technology,” said Dr. James Lawler, head of internal medicine at UNMC.

By now we know messenger RNA-based vaccines are genetic instructions delivered in a dose of lipids that tells your body to make proteins that prevent and fight COVID. Pfizer and the anticipated Moderna vaccination use this science but dozens of other vaccine candidates will use other methods.

“Instead of mRNA package in a fat package, it’s an actual real virus; but it has the genes and coding the spike proteins inside of it,” Dr. Lawler said, describing adenovirus which will be a common method. It uses a version of the virus that will not get you sick but triggers your body’s immunity.

“It (makes your body) say, ‘Oh, I need to mount an immune response against it and fight it off.’ And so you develop those antibodies in those immune cells, and when the real virus comes it already recognizes it and is able to fight it off,” Dr. Lawler said.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine candidate uses the adenovirus method which is common in many vaccinations.

“Right now, again from what I’ve seen all the safety looks very good to be at the case data look very good and so I would take whatever vaccine was available at the time,” Dr. Lawler said.

The only lingering question is what method will give you the longest-lasting immunity — a question they plan to answer through further study.

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