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How does COVID-19 vaccination protect your body from the coronavirus?

Mechanisms of COVID-19 vaccination

Vaccines train a person’s immune system to recognize and clear the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the body.

It allows your body to safely develop an immune response to COVID-19 without getting infected.

Different types of COVID-19 vaccines are currently available. All of them work by the same mechanisms of stimulating the body’s immune cells to recognize and react to some proteins of the virus and produce antibodies, and some immune cells live on as memory cells.

When the coronavirus invades the body, this immunological memory is activated and removes the virus or infected cells.

Functioning through these mechanisms, COVID-19 vaccination reduces the risk of infection and prevents severe illness and even death.

It usually takes two weeks or more after the final dose in a vaccine series for the body to build immunity. That means that it is possible a person could still get COVID-19 immediately after vaccination if exposed to the virus.

After your vaccines, you may experience symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting. All of these are normal reactions that indicate your body is developing immunity and will usually disappear within three days.

Types of COVID-19 vaccines

Different types of vaccines have been developed or are currently under development.

Most of the vaccines use the spike protein of the coronavirus to spur an immune response.

The immune system recognizes the spike protein of the coronavirus as foreign and produces long-lasting immune cells and antibodies.

If you are fully vaccinated before being exposed to the coronavirus, your immune system will respond to the virus quicker and protect you against infection.

There are three main types of COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed or will be developed soon.

mRNA Vaccines (nucleic acid vaccines)
  • mRNA vaccines encode a gene in the form of RNA that produces the coronavirus-specific spike protein.
  • Once the mRNA enters the body, it instructs the cells to make the spike protein.
  • The body recognizes the spike protein as foreign and triggers an immune response, thus creating antibodies against the coronavirus.
  • The mRNA in the mRNA vaccines are degraded in the body and does not interact with our DNA.
Recombinant Vaccines
  • Recombinant vaccines use harmless antigenic proteins of the coronavirus, usually the spike protein.
  • When the vaccine enters the body, the immune system recognizes the antigenic protein as foreign and triggers an immune response, thus developing immunity against the coronavirus.
Viral Vector Vaccines
  • Viral vector vaccines are made from a virus that contains the genetic material of a protein unique to the coronavirus, usually the spike protein.
  • The virus used here is different from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and it is an attenuated virus and harmless to the human body.
  • When a viral vector vaccine enters the body, the spike protein unique to the coronavirus is produced in the body’s cells.
  • The body recognizes the spike protein as foreign and triggers an immune response, thus building immunity against the coronavirus.
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