How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Rachel Mills
Updated: February 16, 2021 05:24 PM
Created: February 16, 2021 05:12 PM

(ABC 6 News) - There is plenty of misinformation out there about what may be in the COVID-19 vaccine and what it does to our bodies.  

"What they're all doing is presenting to our human immune cells one piece of the COVID virus called the spike or "S" protein. And it is that portion that we make antibodies against that protects us from infection," Dr. Greg Poland, director of Mayo Clinic's vaccine research group, said. 

Attached to the virus is a little piece called the spike protein. This is what is inside the COVID vaccine. So, once the vaccine enters the body, antibodies are created to attack that spike protein.

Then, if the actual virus ever enters your body, you already have a system of defense in place. This is the case for every type of COVID vaccine currently available. 

"All of them work that same way. All of them are fundamentally displaying that tip of the virus, that "S" protein, to the human immune cell," Dr. Poland said.  

But why might we need to do it all again and get a second dose of the vaccine? Dr. Poland compares it to starting your car on a cold Minnesota morning. 

"The first dose turns the car on and it idles and begins to warm up. The second dose is like you're ready to put the pedal to the medal and you can go 60 miles an hour," Dr. Poland said.  

The second shot is expanding our immunity by increasing the number of antibodies in our system. 

Many people have reported mild side effects after their second dose, like a fever or fatigue. Dr. Poland said this is because your body believes it's actually fighting the virus that second time, and what you are feeling is your body fighting back. 

"Something like 70 to 80 percent of people will after that second dose, but it doesn't mean something's going wrong. In fact, the opposite," Dr. Poland said.  

Dr. Poland also stressed the safety of the vaccine. He explained why healthcare workers advocate for the vaccine. 

"What we care about is protecting patient's health and wellbeing, and we can't do it unless we all do this together," Dr. Poland said.  

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