How does the Pfizer vaccine work?

By: Sarah VonBerge

Pfizer is 1 of 3 COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States. The ones currently available are Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer and Moderna are both Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, meaning they recognize proteins and help our body learn how to fight an illness so we don’t feel the serious symptoms. This type of RNA does not stay in the body for long, but it helps the body remember how to deal with illnesses.

These vaccines do not release a live virus, but instead a harmless protein called a spike protein, which sits on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. These spike proteins are then displayed on the cells.

When the immune system realizes that that protein is not supposed to be there, the body begins to fight it as if there is an infection even though there is no danger, which is why people may feel sick after they get a vaccine.

Even though the spike protein sits on the cell, it never goes into the nucleus, which is where DNA is kept. Because it doesn’t get into the nucleus, it does not alter DNA in any way even though this is a popular belief.

Just because the spike protein eventually leaves the body, the body doesn’t forget it. Our immune system will continue to remember it, so if the same protein were to come into the body again, it knows how to fight it.

Many are hesitant to get a COVID vaccine because they don’t believe that mRNA vaccines have enough research when, in reality, they have been tested and developed for decades, but only recently became available to the public. They have been studied for the flu, Zika, rabies, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and even cancer.

To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ in our body, whereas mRNA vaccines do not. This immune response is what causes our bodies to release antibodies and fight an illness. Although mRNA vaccines can not prevent an illness, they do help our bodies know how to fight an illness and help us not feel the serious symptoms, if any symptoms at all.

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