The ABCs of vaccine

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Over the past few months, several COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for general or emergency use. Understandably, there remains confusion over which one to choose or which one has the most advantages?

But before deep diving into different types of vaccines, let’s first discuss what vaccines are and how they help?

What are vaccines?

In simple terms, a vaccine is an agent fed into your body to prepare itself for a specific infectious disease by building immunity (antibodies) in your body. The biological structure of a vaccine resembles that of disease-causing microorganisms.

And how do vaccines help?

Our body identifies vaccines as foreign agents and tries to fight them. In the process, our body creates antibodies i.e. it learns how to fight an infection in the future.

  • Given that the body tries to fight against the foreign agent, we might feel some mild side effects. This might also mean that our body is making antibodies by activating immune cells in the body.

What are different types of vaccines?

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  • Use a living but weakened form of the virus causing the infection. reports that only one or two doses of such vaccines can give you a lifetime of protection
  • Examples of such vaccines are COVI-VAC, developed by startup Codagenix and the Serum Institute of India, currently undergoing clinical trails
  • Such vaccines, however, might not be suitable for ones who have compromised immune responses as their body might be able to fight off the vaccine itself
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  • This type of vaccine uses a safe virus to deliver specific sub-parts — called proteins — of the germ of interest so that it can trigger an immune response without causing disease
  • Examples of such vaccines are COVISHIELD (Astrazenca’s)
  • This type of vaccine can be ineffective if one has been already exposed to the virus
  • The disease-carrying virus or bacterium, or one very similar to it, is inactivated or killed using chemicals, heat, or radiation
  • Examples of such vaccines include COVAXIN
  • It requires special laboratory facilities to grow the virus safely and hence is difficult to scale
  • The protein subunit vaccine contains purified “pieces” of a pathogen rather than the whole pathogen to trigger an immune response. The subunits may be proteins or sugars that are injected into the body
  • Example include: NOVOVAX
  • It is thought that by restricting the immune system to the whole pathogen, side effects are minimized
  • Such vaccines just use a section of genetic material that provides the instructions for specific proteins, not the whole microbe. Such vaccines deliver a particular set of instructions to our cells, either as DNA or mRNA, for them to make the specific protein that we want our immune system to recognize and respond to
  • Examples include: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines
  • Some of the challenges include storage and transportation along with the fact that there is not much data around such vaccines in the history of vaccines

So, which vaccines should you choose?

It doesn’t matter. All the vaccines have undergone multiple trials and have been found safe and effective by scientists worldwide. So, go out and get yourself vaccinated on 1st May.

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Simplified news columns and unbiased opinions on current affairs from experts across various fields.