In a small, wet market in Wuhan, China, a single cough sparked what would become a huge international effort to contain a global pandemic. Taking over two million lives and infecting millions more, the novel coronavirus forced people to self-quarantine, schools and stores to shut down, and government buildings to close. To our past-selves, this might sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but to us now, it is very much a grim and cruel reality. Recently, however, there has been a turning point: the approval and distribution of two vaccines.
Both of these vaccines utilize mRNA technology. While many believe that this technology is too new and that scientists do not know enough about it to ensure safety, it has been studied for over a decade and possesses many novel benefits. To start, the COVID-19 vaccine does not inject any infectious material into the human body. Instead, it injects mRNA, a special piece of genetic material which acts as a recipe the human body can follow. Once injected, the human body reads the mRNA, making a protein that is unique to COVID-19. However, the mRNA only holds the information to make part of the protein, meaning the human body could never make the entire protein and thus prevents the vaccinated person from contracting the virus. From there, the vaccine triggers a specific immune response, and the body begins to make T Cells that are capable of fighting the virus. The mRNA injected never actually enters the cells, preventing it from interfering with a person’s DNA. This makes the COVID-19 vaccine safe and specific in its mechanism.
Unfortunately, there has been a rather slow rollout of vaccines. Due to a lack of planning on both the federal and state level, many states have not utilized even half of the amount of vaccines they have received. South Dakota, North Dakota, and Tennessee so far have had the best rollout, utilizing over half of their vaccines and opening up vaccinations to those above 65 years old. California has not had a great rollout but is working hard. Thus, Governor Newsom is looking to open large vaccination super-sites. And now, anyone above the age of 65 years old is eligible to receive the vaccine.
So what can YOU do in the meantime? It’s simple. Here are some of the steps you can take to prevent both you and the people around you from contracting COVID-19.
1. Please wear a mask. It greatly reduces your chances of contracting the virus and helps protect those around you.
2. Try and wash your hands as frequently as possible. Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds kills this lethal virus, and is the best defense against COVID-19.
3. Stay at home and quarantine if you can. Try to only leave your neighborhood for significant reasons, and practice safe social distancing.
While we wait for each state's vaccine rollout, please be mindful of others. Don’t worry! The end is almost coming so please be patient as health professionals around us aim to end this global pandemic. However, simply by staying at home and protecting yourself, you are helping us slow the tide. In the meantime, let’s remember that we are all in this together!