Dr's Casebook: Understanding why Covid mRNA vaccines are effective

If you read this column regularly you will know that I am whole-heartedly in favour of the vaccination programme.

Saturday, 16th October 2021, 4:45 pm
The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to stimulate the person’s immune response. Photo: Getty Images

After previous posts I have received emails with links to online articles and videos trying to persuade me that the mRNA vaccines are not safe, that they potentially cause illness, and alter the person’s DNA.

I have looked at many of them, but have not been at all convinced.

Indeed, I was pleased to see recently that YouTube is taking down videos that spread misinformation about vaccines.

The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to stimulate the person’s immune response.

A typical message is that people are being used as guinea pigs and that the vaccine programme is a big experiment and a gamble, because the vaccines have been developed so quickly.

In fact, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been properly tested in large clinical trials and were found to be very effective in protecting against Covid-19.

They are not in any way experimental.

Yet another piece of misinformation is that parts of the virus are being injected.

This is incorrect as these mRNA viruses do not contain any virus parts at all, merely a piece of mRNA, which is a blueprint for the virus’s spike protein.

There is no chance of getting Covid from the vaccine.

Then there is the message that the mRNA vaccines alter the person’s DNA and their genes, and that once it is in the body it is there permanently.

In fact, the mRNA will not enter the nucleus of the cells, so it cannot alter the DNA and it has no effect on the genes.

Note the word “messenger”, because that is all the mRNA does.

It delivers a message to the cell.

This information instructs the cells to create the spike proteins, which will signal the immune system to develop antibodies.

Thus, the body mounts a defence in preparation for any future infection.

After the information has been given, the mRNA is completely degraded inside the cell and it only stays in the body for a couple of days.

I would encourage everyone to get protected against both Covid and flu whenever they are offered the appropriate vaccines.