Well hopefully I don’t get sued for making this reference, (and if so, jokes on you, I only “own” debt, so ha!), but let me set the stage…it is 2007, around December, and “I am Legend” is playing on the theaters. It was super popular and, if it hasn’t already been burned in your memory (I’m still traumatized more than a decade later from the dog scene), it is about an apocalyptic world that is caused by none other than a vaccine gone wrong! (sounds of screaming).
So, is this new covid vaccine the stuff of nightmares? Was it conjured up overnight in a mad scientist’s basement? WILL IT TURN US ALL INTO NIGHT WALKING ZOMBIES?? Um, no.
The mRNA vaccine is a new vaccine technology, this is true. But it wasn’t pulled from the ether specifically for covid. This form of vaccine delivery has been studied for decades for things like flu, rabies, cytomegalovirus, and ebola.
Why mRNA? The simple answer, it is faster to produce and does not require the use of the infection-causing agent. Traditionally, we would inject a weakened strain or inactivated strain of a virus to allow our body to recognize and form an attack against a pathogen. The mRNA simplifies this.
So how does it work? The mRNA vaccine sends the blueprints for a piece of protein found outside the virus. In the case of Covid, which looks like a medieval mace, it is one of those external spikes that we are reproducing. One small aspect of the virus. Nothing that can cause an infection. What our cells then do is :
1) Get rid of the instruction manual. We break down the mRNA sort of like an old-timey spy would burn a message after reading it.
2) Our cells display this protein piece allowing our immune system to cruise by and recognize that “hey, that doesn’t belong there”.
3) Our body decides to go to war with this invader protein and we start making antibodies to fight anything with this protein structure.
4) We develop an immune response to the protein spikes found all over the Covid 19 virus particles so should we come in contact with them, we already have the cavalry lined up and ready to take it down. Savvy?
The mRNA does not alter our DNA. We will not mutate or become “other”. I understand that all this can be confusing, especially with all the misinformation online and in the news. However, we would encourage all our eligible patients to get vaccinated when possible.
As always, we wish you all good health and a happy 2021!
Brooke Rieth, NP, Dr. Mike, and Action Medicine team