2020 has been a peculiar year and has definitely taught us many things. But, one thing asserted itself so forcefully we can’t ignore it going forward – how easily swayed people are by conspiracy theories.
Of course, human memory is fickle. Which means that however devastating the impact conspiracy theories are, we are apt to forget and quickly. Hence, why YNaija collated notable developments of the year 2020, and of course, the dark days of 5G conspiracies made the list. And, now that a vaccine has arrived, to avoid a vaccine conspiracy scare, we break down ‘how it works‘ of the Pfitzer and Moderna mRNA vaccines.
In the event Nigeria acquires the vaccine, we are better served by knowledge than baseless panic.
First off, you need to understand how your body works to fight off infections. Let’s imagine the human body as a fortress for this exercise. All by itself, the fortress cannot protect itself from foreign invasion, hence the need for the immune system. A regimen that is experienced in battle, from hundreds of years of surviving battle after battle through our evolutionary history.
Your body protects you from infection by keeping things out of it that are foreign, like the novel coronavirus. In rare occasions, even as with fortresses, your body can turn on its own and attack, which results in autoimmune diseases. But that is for another day.
How does your immune system recognise foreign things then? Simple, it reads for familiarity, the same as any good soldier. It will recognise the makeup of your body’s cells, and that of foreign bodies it fought in the past – reason you need to help your immune system to learn the environment.
When it encounters a new thing, something neither belonging to your body nor a familiar intruder, it launches an attack to annihilate it.
This can take days, and if by the time your body is able to fully grasp how to attack the invader your body has been overwhelmed with, you fall sick. If on the other hand, it successfully fights off that invader, it is prepared to fight it off next time it sees it. Because of ‘immunological memory’.
Vaccines are simply external help to that age-old tested and trusted process. Some vaccines introduce inactivated tiny doses of the invader into the body so that the body’s immune system attacks this, and in so doing make antibodies (memory weapons) that will fight off future infections. The mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, on the other hand, does something brilliantly different.
It does not contain the virus, for starters. It is important to be clear about that. Let’s return to our fortress analogy.
Consider that your fortress’s makeup – from building blocks to occupants, are constantly replaced using a blueprint. Your soldiers know the blueprint of everything, the better to be familiar and not attack what they should protect.
Invaders also have their blueprint, which your soldiers will immediately recognise as foreign and attack. This blueprint is communicated by messenger RNA (mRNA).
To make an mRNA vaccine, scientists look at the makeup of a virus and decide what part of it is best to attack to extinguish it. They then send the blueprint of that part into your body and your mRNA creates it (a protein in this case), and your body immediately attacks the protein because it is foreign.
Your soldiers now know how to attack this invader, even without ever actually encountering it. That’s it. Neat as a clean break.
It is all biology and physiology. So if anyone tells you it is a 5G chip, you’re free to throw your communion in their face and walk away.