Transcript: At last, a vaccine is on trial and launched as emergency vaccination drive in the UK, US, and the European Union, to eradicate the pandemic that has crippled economies and claimed more than 17 million lives worldwide.
We all should be proud and above all confident that we can overcome this pandemic as the mRNA vaccine will pave the way out of this crisis.
As fast and efficiently the mRNA vaccine being tried in many developed countries, will it have the same efficacy against the new fast-spreading variant of the virus detected in the UK?
Viruses mutate all the time, including the novel coronavirus that’s caused the global pandemic. The mutation known as the B,11,7 lineage may be up to 70 per cent more infectious and more of a concern for children.
This variant was first seen in Kent and Greater London in the third week of September has since spread to other locations in the UK
A few days back PM Boris Johnson announced stricter lockdown measures, saying the strain, which goes by the name B.11.7, appears to be better at spreading between people.
The new variant has 23 mutations in all, which is unusually huge. The emergence of a large number of mutations in the variant could possibly have taken place in an immunodeficient or immunosuppressed patient who had a prolonged infection. In such people the infection may persists for two-four months or even longer,
This variant demonstrates a substantial increase in transmissibility compared to other variants, according to the group, which is chaired by Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the University of Oxford.
There is no evidence that this new variant is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality.
Moderna, Germany’s CureVac and Britain’s AstraZeneca believe their shots, which target the virus that causes COVID-19- Sars-CoV2- will also work against the new strain that has sown chaos in the UK.
These manufacturers of the vaccine are performing tests that should provide confirmation in a few weeks.
Ugur Sahin, chief executive of Germany’s BioNTech, which partnered with American manufacturer Pfizer, said, he expects its messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine will still work well for the mutant
. “Scientifically it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine can also deal with this virus variant,” Mr Sahin said.
He further said that the vaccine contains more than 1,270 aminoacids, and only nine of them are changed in the mutated virus.
This means that 99 per cent of the protein is still the same, and mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer’s are easier to re-program when compared to traditional vaccine technology. They can quickly re-engineer genetic material in the shot to match that of the mutated protein, whereas modifying traditional vaccine is aiming to protect against.
The idea is that the body detects the genetic material and new protein as foreign and mounts an immune response — producing antibodies that learn to remember and fight the virus if the body encounters it again.
“In principle, the beauty of the mRNA technology is we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation,” Mr Sahin said.
A new vaccine technology could be able to be provided within six weeks
How does mRNA vaccines work?
Traditional vaccines in general train our immune system to recognize pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, seems to fight them off and destroy them.
Vaccine is considered as the antigen. They are bits of inactivated virus, or attenuated virus or purified molecules. They make the body recognize them and produce antibodies to counter them.
mRNA vaccines work differently in the body.
They do not have the antigens as in the traditional vaccines. Instead, they contain a blueprint of the vaccine in the form of genetic material- which is called mRNA.
When the mRNA vaccine is injected into the muscle, it is taken into cells, which ‘read’ the mRNA and build antigens over the course of a few days after which time the mRNA is broken down.
So, this vaccine has no antigens like traditional vaccines, but the antigens are created in our cells for the mRNA vaccine.
Antigens that are produced are pushed outside their membrane and wave them around like flags, alerting the immune system that something foreign has managed breach the body’s defenses.
As a response to this the white blood cells called B cells make and pump out antibodies. These antibodies are Y -shaped molecules that form an immune ‘memory’ for that particular antigen.
The B cell antibodies circulate in the blood stream for a long time, but exact period is not known.
These antibodies for COVID-19 can be screened with finger prick test
In the UK the researchers screened 365,000 people for COVID-19 antibodies with finger prick test between June and September and they observed antibody prevalence fell by a quarter.
Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, said it looked like immunity to COVID-19 declined with the antibodies.
It was observed that that there was no change in the levels of antibodies seen in healthcare workers, possibly due to repeated exposure to the virus.
The decline of the antibodies was largest in people ages 75 and above, and also in people with suspected rather then confirmed infection, indicating the antibody response varied by age and with the severity of the illness.
Antibodies to COVID-19 should be sustained for a long time after the mRNA vaccine, and this seems to be not the case.
Presently, the researchers boast of a 95 per cent cure. This is questionable with the decline in antibody response to the vaccine.
COVID-19, short for ‘coronavirus disease 2019” caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a RNA virus.
What this means is that unlike in humans and other mammals, the genetic material for SARS-CoV-2 is encoded in ribonucleic acid or RNA.
This Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which uses new mRNA technology must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about -70 degrees Celsius to remain effective before being shipped to distribution centres.
Doses can be kept in an ultra-low temperature freezer for up to six months, or for five days at 2C to 8C, a type of refrigeration commonly available in hospitals.
Pfizer has designed special shipping containers filled with dry ice to keep the vaccine from spoiling while in transit.
Sri Lanka, being a hot tropical country to keep the vaccine injections at minus 70 degrees Celsius would be a very costly exercise.
It is hopeful, despite multiple challenges immunization coverage will remain 100% due to the people’s steadfast commitment.
On behalf of the COVAX faculty supported by Gavi COVAX AMC as well, and UNICEF will finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets, to ensure that no country is left without access to a future COVID-19 vaccine.
DNA vs RNA
DNA is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms.
This DNA material is located in the cell nucleus, but a small amount of DNA could be found in the mitochondria found in the cytoplasm of each cell. This is referred to as mitochondrial DNA.
DNA contains the code for building and maintaining an organism.
The RNA in Corona viruses is a enveloped positive-single-strand, and they infect humans, other mammals and avian species, including livestock and companion animals.
This RNA is sneaky and its features is to cause the protein synthesis machinery in humans to mistake it for RNA produced by our own DNA.
Each of our cells carries tens of thousand of different mRNAs, which give a broad array of proteins.
Ribosomal RNA or rRNA is a part of the ribosome that plays a direct role in linking protein building blocks called amino acids taken from our food proteins. RNA is one of the three major biological macromolecules that are essential for all forms of life, along with DNA and proteins. DNA makes RNA, and RNA makes proteins.
So, as mentioned earlier, the RNA of the COVID-19 virus is sneaky and its features is to cause the protein synthesis in our cells to mistake it for RNA produced by our own DNA.
The current vaccine is the first one used for human use that is based on RNA technology.
Hope this video talk was useful for you to get the mRNA vaccine jab with confidence, hoping for a wonderful world again we enjoyed.
Thank you and wishing a very healthful 2021 and Good Bye for now.
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