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Vaccines Provide Light at the end of the Covid Tunnel

By: Maya Hoffman

As we have recently passed a year since lockdown and the beginning of the pandemic, things are slowly returning to normal, thanks, in part, to the increased number of vaccinated individuals. New York State’s numbers are drastically lower than they were in April 2020. Recently, movie theatres, catering events, and more have been approved to make their comeback. None of this would have been achievable without the hard work of scientists to create the groundbreaking COVID mRNA vaccine. 

The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines introduce a new wave of technology to the medical field. The mitochondrial RNA signals for human cells to produce antibodies against the evolving spike protein of the coronavirus. The mRNA essentially provides a code for destroying the virus. mRNA technology has been around for decades, however, these two vaccines are the first to meet the market with astonishing protection rates of around 95%. While these two vaccines require two doses each and do, at times, come with minimal side effects, the overall positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to paving the way back to normalcy. 

More recently, Johnson and Johnson released their version of a Covid vaccine. This vaccine takes shape in a more common form: the cold virus. It only requires a single dose, making it more appealing to some. People may feel more comfortable with this shot, as this vaccine type has been on the market before. This vaccine is delivered via adenovirus or a cold virus genetically modified to not make you sick. The virus contains DNA of the spike protein which will degrade and not affect chromosomes. However, there are growing concerns about this particular vaccine coming, in some cases, with the potentially tragic side effect of blood clots. Distribution has since been put on hold in the US as the FDA and CDC move to investigate the safety of this vaccine. While the three vaccines are each unique in their own right, a common concern with these, and many other, vaccines is that they will alter genetic sequences, however, studies conclude the mRNA is completely separate from the DNA, and the DNA for the spike protein does not get integrated into the genome. 

Despite concerns that some have over-vaccination, the increased distribution of the vaccines, now available in some capacity to all over the age of 16 in the United States, has significantly contributed to decreased hospitalizations and the start of the much-desired herd immunity, which will hopefully allow the return to normalcy as eligibility increases. As of April 6th, those 16 years and older can become vaccinated if they receive Pfizer’s vaccine. The others have recently begun efforts to study younger populations and their ability to get the vaccine safely. Whether you are vaccinated or not, it is still important to wash your hands, wear your mask, and try to maintain social-distancing when possible. Because of our continued vigilance and these vaccinations, the world is headed towards brighter days!]