How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

Introduction

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) is the virus causing the pandemic of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID‑19). COVID-19 vaccine is intended to protect us from the serious complications of this infectious disease and at the same time prevent the spread of the disease. In this article, we will look into detail on how corona virus vaccine works.

What are the COVID-19 vaccines available in the market?

The vaccines currently available in Malaysia are Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, CanSinoBIO and Sputnik V. All vaccinations except CanSinoBIO would require two doses to be fully immunized.

National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme

The national COVID-19 Immunisation Programme has officially launched in Malaysia in February 2021. The public can enrol in the free vaccination programme through registration in the ‘MySejahtera’ application. The immunisation programme is launched in three phases as below:

  • First phase (February to April 2021)
    • Frontliners such as healthcare workers, police, civil defence sectors, Volunteers Department of Malaysia (Rela) and Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia (Bomba) will first receive the vaccination.
  • Second phase (April to August 2021)
    • High risk groups such as senior citizens above 60 years old, people with disabilities and patients with non-communicable disease of diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Third phase (May 2021 to February 2022)
    • Remaining individuals

How do COVID-19 vaccines work?

A vaccine contains protein from the virus that serves to stimulate immune responses against a specific infection. It is a safe method that provides the best protection against COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the market are made of either mRNA, viral vector or inactivated SARS-Cov2 virus. mRNA is a part of the genetic material which is able to produce a protein similar to that on the virus. A viral vector is a modified virus that aims to transport genetic material into the human body to produce protein similar to SARS-COV2 virus. Antibodies that are specific to the virus causing COVID-19 will be produced to recognise the virus and destroy it immediately when our body encounters the real virus in the future.

A vaccine does not prevent us from COVID-19. It protects us from the serious complications caused by the disease and potentially reduces the outbreak of this disease.

Effectiveness of COVID vaccine

The effectiveness of COVID vaccine is above 50%. It varies between the types of vaccines and risk level of a particular person. In general, vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect us from the symptoms of COVID-19 and the serious complications along with it.

Preventive measures

In order to achieve a greater effect in preventing the spread of COVID-19, the public are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Wear a face mask in public.
  • Wash your hand with soap and water or sanitize your hand with sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Maintain a social distance of 2 meters (6 feets).
  • Practise cough etiquette by covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.

Conclusion

COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the market are safe and effective to reduce our risk of contracting serious illness from the disease. A vaccine works by introducing a protein found on the virus and stimulating production of antibodies. These antibodies are able to mount an immune response quickly when we encounter the real virus in the future, causing milder symptoms. Hence, the vaccination programme in conjunction with preventive measures, we can protect ourselves from COVID-19.

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