USEFUL INFO: COVID-19 & THE VACCINE
At Wash Common Dental Practice, we take patient care seriously. Making sure that our patients feel cared for and helped right now is a priority. Being in the health care profession means that we get asked a lot of serious questions but, it also gives us access to accurate and relevant information.
We hope you find the below details useful.
About the vaccine:
Germs are all around us, both in our environment and in our bodies. When a person is susceptible, and they encounter a harmful organism, it can lead to disease and death.
The body has many ways of defending itself against pathogens (disease-causing organisms). Skin, mucus, and cilia (microscopic hairs that move debris away from the lungs) all work as physical barriers to prevent pathogens from entering the body in the first place.
When a pathogen does infect the body, our body’s defences, called the immune system, are triggered and the pathogen is attacked and destroyed or overcome.
The body’s natural response
A pathogen is a bacterium, virus, parasite or fungus that can cause disease within the body. Each pathogen is made up of several subparts, usually unique to that specific pathogen and the disease it causes. The subpart of a pathogen that causes the formation of antibodies is called an antigen. The antibodies produced in response to the pathogen’s antigen are an important part of the immune system. You can consider antibodies as the soldiers in your body’s defence system have thousands of different antibodies in our bodies. When the human body is exposed to an antigen for the first time, it takes time for the immune system to respond and produce antibodies specific to that antigen.
In the meantime, the person is susceptible to becoming ill.
Once the antigen-specific antibodies are produced, they work with the rest of the immune system to destroy the pathogen and stop the disease. Once the body produces antibodies in its primary response to an antigen, it also creates antibody-producing memory cells, which remain alive even after the pathogen is defeated by the antibodies. If the body is exposed to the same pathogen more than once, the antibody response is much faster and more effective than the first time around because the memory cells are at the ready to pump out antibodies against that antigen.
This means that if the person is exposed to the dangerous pathogen in the future, their immune system will be able to respond immediately, protecting against disease.
Vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism (antigen) that triggers an immune response within the body. Newer vaccines contain the blueprint for producing antigens rather than the antigen itself. Regardless of whether the vaccine is made up of the antigen itself or the blueprint so that the body will produce the antigen, this weakened version will not cause the disease in the person receiving the vaccine, but it will prompt their immune system to respond much as it would have on its first reaction to the actual pathogen.
Some vaccines require multiple doses, given weeks or months apart. This is sometimes needed to allow for the production of long-lived antibodies and development of memory cells. In this way, the body is trained to fight the specific disease-causing organism, building up memory of the pathogen so as to rapidly fight it if and when exposed in the future.
When someone is vaccinated, they are very likely to be protected against the targeted disease. When a lot of people in a community are vaccinated the pathogen has a hard time circulating because most of the people it encounters are immune. So, the more that others are vaccinated, the less likely people who are unable to be protected by vaccines are at risk of even being exposed to the harmful pathogens. This is called herd immunity.
No single vaccine provides 100% protection, and herd immunity does not provide full protection to those who cannot safely be vaccinated. But with herd immunity, these people will have substantial protection, thanks to those around them being vaccinated.
Vaccinating not only protects yourself, but also protects those in the community who are unable to be vaccinated. If you are able to, get vaccinated.
What are the ingredients in a vaccine?
Vaccines contain tiny fragments of the disease-causing organism or the blueprints for making the tiny fragments. They also contain other ingredients to keep the vaccine safe and effective.
All vaccines contain an active component (the antigen) which generates an immune response, or the blueprint for making the active component. The antigen may be a small part of the disease-causing organism, like a protein or sugar, or it may be the whole organism in a weakened or inactive form.
Preservatives prevent the vaccine from becoming contaminated once the vial has been opened, if it will be used for vaccinating more than one person. The most commonly used preservative is 2-phenoxyethanol. It has been used for many years in a number of vaccines, is used in a range of baby care products and is safe for use in vaccines, as it has little toxicity in humans.
Stabilizers prevent chemical reactions from occurring within the vaccine and keep the vaccine components from sticking to the vaccine vial. Stabilizers can be sugars (lactose, sucrose), amino acids (glycine), gelatine, and proteins (recombinant human albumin, derived from yeast).
Surfactants keep all the ingredients in the vaccine blended together. They prevent settling and clumping of elements that are in the liquid form of the vaccine. They are also often used in foods like ice cream.
Residuals are tiny amounts of various substances used during manufacturing or production of vaccines that are not active ingredients in the completed vaccine. Substances will vary depending on the manufacturing process used and may include egg proteins, yeast or antibiotics. Residual traces of these substances which may be present in a vaccine are in such small quantities that they need to be measured as parts per million or parts per billion.
A diluent is a liquid used to dilute a vaccine to the correct concentration immediately prior to use. The most commonly used diluent is sterile water.
Some vaccines also contain adjuvants. An adjuvant improves the immune response to the vaccine, sometimes by keeping the vaccine at the injection site for a little longer or by stimulating local immune cells.
The adjuvant may be a tiny amount of aluminium salts (like aluminium phosphate, aluminium hydroxide or potassium aluminium sulphate). Aluminium has been shown not to cause any long-term health problems, and humans ingest aluminium regularly through eating and drinking.
Your frequently asked questions:
The most commonly used vaccines we have today have been in use for decades, with millions of people receiving them safely every year.
As with all medicines, every vaccine needs to go through extensive and rigorous testing before it can be introduced in a country. Once they are in use, they must be continuously monitored to make sure they are safe for the people who receive them.
The vaccines approved for use in the UK have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety.
So far, thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.
Are there side effects from the Covid-19 vaccines?
Vaccines are very safe. As with all medicines, side effects can occur after getting a vaccine. However, these are usually very minor and of short duration, such as a sore arm or a mild fever. More serious side effects are possible, but extremely rare.
A person is far more likely to be seriously harmed by a disease than by a vaccine.
How effective is the vaccine?
The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.
There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.
This means it is important to:
- continue to follow social distancing guidance
- if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it’s hard to stay away from other people
Will the vaccine provide long term protection?
It’s too early to know if COVID-19 vaccines will provide long-term protection. Additional research is needed to answer this question. However, it’s encouraging that available data suggest that most people who recover from COVID-19 develop an immune response that provides at least some period of protection against reinfection – although we’re still learning how strong this protection is, and how long it lasts.
Most COVID-19 vaccines being tested or reviewed now are using two dose regimens.