Sunday, October 24, 2021

No, COVID Vaccines Don’t Stay in Your Body for Years

As Australia strives to reach its national COVID vaccination targets, the biological effects of vaccines receive unprecedented attention.

While there is a vast amount of information available online, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate truth from falsehood or conspiracy.

A common myth of vaccines that has surfaced in recent months is the allegation that they remain active in the body for a long time – a claim that has raised vaccine hesitation in some people.

However, vaccines are cleared from your body in just days or weeks. It is the immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that appears to be long-lasting.

This is not due to the vaccines themselves remaining in the body. Instead, vaccines stimulate our immune systems and teach us how to respond if we are ever exposed to the coronavirus.

Let’s explain

How do vaccines work?

All vaccines, no matter the technology, have the same fundamental goal – to introduce the immune system to an infectious agent, without the risk that comes from disease.

The vaccine needs to follow the same path a virus would have taken to generate an adequate immune response. Viruses enter our cells and use them to replicate themselves. Therefore, vaccines also need to be delivered to cells where the protein is produced, which mimics a component of the virus.

The COVID vaccines do all this by delivering information to our muscle cells, usually in our upper arms. They do this in different ways, such as using mRNA, such as Pfizer and Moderna, or viral vectors, such as AstraZeneca.

Vaccines break down quickly and are cleared from our bodies. But our immune system that produces COVID-killing cells persists.
Mick Sicas / You

Regardless of the technique, the effect is the same. Our cells use the genetic template in the vaccine to produce the coronavirus’s spike protein, which is a part of the virus that helps it enter our cells. The spike protein is carried to the cell surface where it is detected by nearby immune cells.

There are other specialized immune cells nearby, too, which take the spike proteins and use them to inform more immune cells – specifically targeting them against COVID.

These immune cells include B cells, which produce antibodies, and T cells, which kill virus-infected cells. They then become long-lasting memory cells, which wait and monitor the next time they see the spike protein.

If you are exposed to the virus, these memory B and T cells destroy the virus before it can cause disease, allowing a rapid and massive immune response.

Read more: Revealed: Protein ‘spike’ that allows 2019-nCoV coronavirus to enter and invade human cells

So what happens to the vaccine?

Vaccines are rapidly broken down and cleared from the body once they trigger an immune response.

mRNA vaccines consist of a fatty shell, which encapsulates a group of mRNA particles – the genetic recipe for the spike protein. Once it enters a cell, the shell is degraded into harmless fat, and the mRNA is used by the cells to produce the spike protein.

Once the mRNA is used to produce proteins, it is broken down and cleared from the cell along with the rest of the mRNA produced by the cell’s normal function.

In fact, mRNA is very fragile, with the longest lasting only being able to survive for a few days. This is why vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna must be preserved so carefully at ultra-low temperatures.

Vector vaccines (AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson) use an adenovirus, which is harmless in humans, as a vector to deliver a genetic template for the spike protein to cells.

All infectious components of the vector virus have been removed, so it is unable to multiply or cause disease. Then a genetic template for the spike protein is inserted into the vector.

Once the vaccine is injected, the vector virus attaches to your cells and inserts its genetic components, before the shell is broken down and removed.

Read more: How long does immunity last after COVID vaccination? Do we need booster shots? 2 immunology experts explain

The viral machinery moves the genetic template to the control chamber of the cell, the nucleus, where it takes advantage of our normal protein-making activity. The vaccine does not change our DNA.

Normally, this causes the cell to start making more copies of the virus, but since it was all removed, all that is produced is the spike protein.

Again, after creating a large amount of spikes, the genetic templates break down over a few days or weeks.

What about spike proteins?

While the vaccines themselves are rapidly removed, what then happens to all the spike proteins that are produced as a result?

They are recognized as foreign by the immune system and destroyed – in the process teaching cells to recognize the coronavirus.

The spike proteins are completely cleared from the body after a few weeks. At this time, they do not appear to be leaving the vaccination site (often your upper arm).

But antibodies specifically targeting the spike protein produced by your immune system remain in the body for several months after vaccination.

Vaccines also stimulate your immune system to produce memory cells. This means that even once antibody levels are low, if you ever come into contact with it, your immune system is ready to produce more antibodies and other immune cells to combat the virus.

Read more: How long does immunity last after COVID vaccination? Do we need booster shots? 2 immunology experts explain

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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