Four days ago, I was fortunate enough to receive the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations from the Duval County Department of Health at our local convention Center. The Florida Department of Health in Duval County has, in my opinion, done a fairly good job of implementing a process of distributing the COVID-19 vaccinations to the first round of groups our Governor has allowed to get the vaccine which include:
– Long-term care facility residents and staff.
– Persons 65 years of age and older.
– Health care personnel with direct patient contact.
– Persons deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people standing in line to receive the vaccination in front of, and behind of, me at the convention center. People are ready. They have been. It's been a long and hard year and the vaccination offers a glimmer of hope for 2021. Unfortunately, I had been disheartened by some negative discussion online about the release of the vaccination and about some reports that many were not even considering getting the vaccination for many reasons that did not seem well-informed.
I would like to take this opportunity to review a few basics about vaccinations in general, about the COVID vaccine specifically, and about herd immunity finally. I hope that it alleviates some fear, it clarifies some confusion, and it answers some questions.
First. How do basic vaccines work? Vaccines work by mimicking an infection so it puts your body through a "dress rehearsal" for the real deal. What we are used to are shots that give us infections by injecting either small amounts of the real infection or inactivated infection or a weakened form of the infection. A person is given JUST enough to get the immune system to wake up and figure out what to do with that infection and go through all the motions so that when it comes to the *real deal*, it already has had all the practice.
What's so different about the COVID-19 vaccine? This is different because you are not being injected with any part of the actual virus. You are getting just the instructions to make only the spike protein part of the COVID molecule. The spike protein then triggers the immune system to do what it does to start that dress rehearsal we talked about Because the cell is only making the spike protein and not the rest of the viral particle, there is no chance of getting COVID-19 from the vaccination.
Wait. You are going to inject a deadly virus DNA into my DNA? NO WAY. No. That's not what I said. I said mRNA. 2 different things. The mRNA works outside of the cell nucleus. Far away from your cell's DNA. The mRNA cannot travel INTO the cell nucleus. Once the mRNA attaches onto the ribosome and is translated into the protein, the mRNA code isn't needed anymore and is degraded. Gone. That's why some websites explain mRNA as kind of like a Snapchat message--once it's seen, it disappears.
What is herd immunity? Also known as community immunity or population immunity, it occurs when a large-enough portion of the population is immune to a disease so that the disease has nowhere to go. Herd immunity is especially important for protecting the parts of the population that are most at-risk-- the ones who are unable to get vaccinated, the ones who are medically fragile like babies or elderly or the immunocompromised. In the case of COVID-19, public health experts are estimating that we need at least 80% of the population immune to COVID-19 before we can see an effective herd immunity.
I hope that you take the opportunity to consider the known risks versus the known benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and weigh that against the known risks of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the rising infection numbers and the deaths to date. Please continue to practice social distancing and as always wear a mask and wash your hands.
Cardona Direct Primary Care patients are welcome to contact me at anytime to discuss your concerns about the vaccine or to ask any other questions regarding COVID-19. I'll try my best to get you the most up to date answers. If you'd like to become a patient of Cardona Direct Primary Care, you can click here to enroll.