INSIGHT INTO THE mRNA COVID-19 VACCINE

Vaccines save millions of lives every year. They work by training the body’s immune system to recognize and ward off viruses and bacteria. With the COVID-19 vaccine spreading around the globe, people have expressed mixed emotions about the vaccine. While most were elated with the news and had high hopes for it, others were a little skeptical. The average person does not understand how the vaccine will work on our bodies or how our bodies will react to it. However, a lot of information is now available about how and when research began, the technology used, how it works in our body and the side effects.  

HOW IT BEGAN 

Synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), is an ingenious variation on the natural substance that provides instructions or serves as a blueprint for protein production in cells throughout the body. By making precise modifications to synthetic mRNA and injecting people with this blueprint, any cell in the body could be transformed into an on-demand drug factory. Before this was a multibillion-dollar idea, it was a scientific backwater. Katalin Kariko, a Hungarian biochemist, specializes in RNA-mediated mechanisms. She dedicated her work attempting to harness the power of mRNA to fight disease. However, she was faced with rejections and didn’t receive any support in the form of government grants, corporate funding or even support from her colleagues. After partnering with Drew Weissman and tweaking her current work, they discovered a solution to the existing mRNA research. Today, Moderna and Pfizer, have used this mRNA research that started three decades ago in an attempt to end this global pandemic and save lives. 

HOW DOES IT WORK

Most vaccines introduce weakened or inactive versions of the virus in the body for it to make antibodies. The COVID-19 vaccine has strands of genetic material called mRNA inside a special coating. That coating protects the mRNA from enzymes in the body that would otherwise break it down once it entered the body. mRNA can most easily be described as instructions for the cell on how to make a piece of the “spike protein” that is unique to SARS-CoV-2. Since only part of the protein is made, it does not do any harm to the person vaccinated. After the piece of the spike protein is made, the cell breaks down the mRNA strands and disposes of them using enzymes in the cell. Once displayed on the cell surface, the protein causes the immune system to begin producing antibodies and activating T-cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection. These antibodies are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which means the immune system is primed to protect you against future infection.

SIDE EFFECTS OF THE VACCINE

Patients considering vaccination may worry about the short-term and long-term side effects of taking the vaccine. The most common side effect of the vaccine is pain/soreness at the injection site. Other commonly reported side effects include fever, fatigue, muscle aches or headache, but these are usually mild and resolve in a few days. Serious reactions are uncommon and include rare cases of severe allergic reactions. Caution is advised for anyone who has a history of serious allergic reactions to vaccines or injections in the past. The mRNA does not enter the cell nucleus so it cannot alter or affect your DNA. it has also not been linked to infertility or miscarriage as suggested by many rumours.

WHO WILL BE VACCINATED?

The delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine will be prioritized since it is limited in terms of quantity at the moment. The CDC has recommended phases in which different groups of people should receive the vaccine, but currently it is up to individual States to set exact criteria for who is included in these phases. For the State of Georgia, this link provides updates on current phases.  As the vaccine becomes more readily available, additional groups will be vaccinated. 

Buckhead Medicine is a premier concierge medicine practice in Atlanta. We provide quality, attentive and personalized medical care to people with physician access 24/7. We have also been approved for international testing and offer COVID-19 tests like the COVID-19 RT-PCR Test, COVID-19 Rapid Molecular Test, COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test and the COVID-19 IgG Serum Antibody Test. check out our website for information. Visit our page to find out about COVID-19 testing in Atlanta. Read our blogs for more information about the COVID-19 vaccination and how long you have to isolate for if you were exposed to COVID-19

PCR TEST- WHEN TO GET TESTED BEFORE FLYING

International travel requires meeting stringent country specific criteria for testing before travel. There are two tests that are widely used for testing before you travel. One is the Antigen Test, also called the Rapid Test, and the other is the PCR test. The Antigen test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus while the PCR test detects Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) that is specific to the virus. The PCR test uses nasal or throat swabs from the person with or without symptoms. The wait time for results is longer and it also has higher accuracy as well.

 After the test has been taken, the sample is sent to a lab where it converts the virus’s RNA into DNA. It then makes millions of copies of the DNA, which allows for the identification of the organism. This process can take hours as it is typically done one sample at a time. Although it is a time consuming process, it delivers results that are almost 100% accurate.

Testing before and after travel can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Testing does not eliminate all risk. However, when paired with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer.

Mandatory pre-departure testing for all passengers is key to restoring global air travel connectivity. This will give governments the confidence to open borders fully and possibly eliminate the need to quarantine arrivals. With all this information, when is the right time to get tested for Covid-19 before traveling? 

According to the CDC, here’s what you need to do: 

  • Get tested 1-3 days before your flight.
  • Get tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days after travel.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
  • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.
  • Delay your travel if you are waiting for test results.
  • A negative test does not mean that you were not exposed or that you will not develop COVID-19. Make sure to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands, and watch your health for signs of illness while traveling.

On average, symptoms of the virus develop five to six days post exposure, but the incubation period can be as long as 14 days. Some people never develop noticeable symptoms, hence the recommendation to self-quarantine and self-monitor for a full two weeks after any likely exposure.

Travelers with a known exposure to COVID-19 should delay travel, quarantine themselves from other people, get tested, and monitor their health. You may have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can be contagious without symptoms and spread the virus to others. You and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus.

Watch your health, look for symptoms of COVID-19, and check your temperature if you feel sick.

https://www.calculator.net/ is a useful link to calculate when you need to be tested to meet international travel criteria for Covid-19 PCR testing.

CDC has listed some Covid-19 travel recommendations by destination for those who are planning a holiday. It recommends that people can travel to places where the Covid-19 infection rate is very low like Cayman Islands, Fiji, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and a few others. Most countries have reported very high rates of Covid-19, hence travel to them should be avoided. Since the U.S. is currently the most affected country in the world, you need to find out which countries are welcoming U.S. tourists. At the moment, travel destinations like The Bahamas, Aruba, Dubai, Jamaica, The Maldives, Mexico and a few others are open to welcoming U.S. tourists. The U.S. Department of State has also issued Covid-19 traveller information to those who want to travel abroad or those who are already outside the U.S. Some of the information includes reading guidelines for prevention, travel restrictions and how to keep workplaces, homes, schools and commercial establishments safe.

Check the Buckhead Medicine website and read our blogs for more information about Covid-19. Read our blog on how long you need to isolate if you are exposed to Covid-19 and about insurance coverage for Covid-19 testing.