2020 has been a tough year. We have learnt phrases like “Flatten the curve”, “social distancing” and of course the Merriam-Webster word of the year, “Pandemic”. After a gruelling and tragic 9 months, a ray of hope is finally in sight with vaccinations being rolled out world-over. The fact that it took under a year from the virus rearing its ugly head to the development of a vaccine to fight it is nothing short of a scientific miracle.
Both the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine have been tested on thousands of clinical trial participants and found to be overall safe and highly effective with both vaccines approximately 95% effective in preventing systemic cases of the disease.
Unfortunately, as we all live in our “social bubbles” (in addition to the “COVID bubble”) there has been a deluge of online misinformation which is shared and forwarded.
No, the Vaccine will not Incorporate Into Your DNA'
The main concern is about adverse effects; however, the vast majority of side effects have been mild, including pain at the injection site, headache, chills or fever for a few days.
These are normally a sign that your immune system is responding and building those much needed antibodies. Severe reactions are extremely rare.
Another common misconception has been that somehow the vaccine will incorporate into our DNA. This is inaccurate as these vaccines are mRNA based.
They work by mRNA entering the cells which instructs the body’s 3D printer (called the ribosome) on how to make a spike protein (similar to the coronavirus). As soon as the mRNA has finished giving instructions to the “printer”, its work is done and gets broken down by the body and disappears. This spike protein leads the body to produce immune cells which can attack the virus if you are exposed to it.
Stick it to COVID-19 and Cut Through Disinformation
As a physician, 2020 has been a tough year. Countless precious lives have been lost including irreplaceable frontline healthcare workers.
I have seen patients in the hospital admitted with moderate shortness of breath rapidly decompensate and succumb to the virus. The ones that recover can have long-term side effects including shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches, etc. So when the FDA voted to give the green light to approve the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, I anxiously waited to sign up!
Fortunately, within the week of the vaccine being approved, I received the email to set up my appointment for the first shot (Pfizer BioNtech is administered 3 weeks apart). The vaccination drive was in the middle of my clinic and was run efficiently by our institution.
It took me a few minutes to check in, get my vaccine card and finally the vaccine (with the obligatory selfie ). Fifteen minutes of observation time and I was ready to run back to clinic.
With the current climate of disinformation, it is essential to cut through the background noise and make an educated decision to get vaccinated.
For me, there were a few key reasons: I have seen firsthand what this virus can do even to the young and healthy and as healthcare workers we need to set an example and practice what we preach on vaccination.
But most importantly, it is about living in a society where we all co-exist and preventing the spread of the virus to others is what will ultimately help in defeating this virus and will get our lives back on track. Sure, my arm was sore for a few days, but this is a small price to pay for the protective shield generated by the vaccine! Looking forward to my next dose in January! Stay safe, healthy and when available, #GetVaccinated
(Dr Shubham Pant is a medical oncologist with MC Anderson Cancer Center, in Texas, USA.)
(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission.)