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COVID Vaccine: The second shot

We’re talking spike proteins, the thing that gives COVID-19 its distinct look (red spikes).

Today is the day! It’s been roughly two weeks (if I’m counting that right) since I got my first COVID-19 vaccine shot and today I’m getting my booster, or second shot, whatever we’re calling it. For that reason, today we’re going to recap the last two weeks and discuss what may happen with the second shot. It’s not as exciting as it sounds, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there so it’s important to document all this.

Like any good story we should start at the beginning. The vaccine rollout at the hospital I research at was staggered, which has been pretty standard for the vaccine rollout. As a front-facing researcher (see: working directly with people) I got added to the list of people who needed vaccination. While I was in a lower priority group than my Co-PI, I still got my first shot about a week after he got his. That was a nice surprise since I wasn’t expecting it at all.

After my first shot I could move small objects with my mind, control lightning, and levitate, but only if I tried really hard. Okay, that isn’t true. The vaccine doesn’t give you superpowers, it isn’t a super futuristic tracing program, and it won’t modify your genetics. None of those things are even possible with technology and wouldn’t be possible for a generation or more (if ever).

The COVID-19 vaccine is a mRNA vaccine. It’s an impressive piece of science and I’m thankful for it. The vaccine causes your body to produce the spike protein that is found on the COVID-19 virus. You can’t get COVID from the vaccine because it doesn’t cause you to create the entire virus, just a small portion of it.

You can think of a spike protein like a key, that key fits into a lock located on the wall of the cells that make you, well you. Once the key attaches to the lock, the virus can enter the cell and reproduce. However, the body doesn’t produce the key that is on the COVID virus and that “key” is pretty stable across mutations so in a perfect world the vaccine will continue to work for all new strains of COVID (up to ~3 distinct strains as of this writing if I remember correctly).

The COVID-19 vaccine works by giving your body a copy of that “key” so the immune system can learn to fight anything that has that “key” or without the metaphor, the spike protein. mRNA or messenger RNA is read by the body and creates that protein, so once again you cannot and will not get COVID-19 from the vaccine, there’s no physical way for that to happen since the rest of the COVID-19 genome is not included. Going back to the metaphor, it’s a key without the person (COVID-19) attached to it. With your body now aware that if it sees the “key” it needs to eliminate it and now that we’ve trained your immune system to find and eliminate it, should the COVID-19 virus show up in the body, the body will be ready for it.

So why two shots? Well you need to thoroughly train the immune system, to do that you need to create a high enough response to teach it that the “key” or spike protein is bad. The second shot insures that you have an immune response large enough to train the body and its… super effective! The COVID-19 vaccine is ~95% effective which is amazing! While we don’t know how long the vaccine will last, we know that it is at least a year and as time goes on we’ll know just how long immunity lasts.

My first shot I noticed absolutely nothing aside from a sore arm. It wasn’t even that sore. I’ve been on testosterone replacement therapy for several years now due to some health issues and the soreness from those shots are far worse. Some people will notice mild flu like symptoms with the first or second shot, but typically it’s not that bad. Those symptoms are because the immune system is ramping up to find and destroy (literally eat) the “key” that is produced from the vaccine.

Today my second shot should cause a larger response since my body has seen the “key” before. That could cause me to have actual side effects, which can be summed up as feeling sick. The plan is to get my shot and over the weekend give an update on how I feel and what its like getting the second shot. My response to the first shot (or rather lack of side effects) is a typical response so I suspect that my response to the second shot will be just as typical. I would rather deal with mild flu like symptoms (body aches, mild fever, etc.) than potentially needing to be ventilated.

I am very thankful to be one of the first wave to get the vaccine and I’m excited for the general public to get it. This is a group effort, so we all need to get vaccinated if we’re going to beat this thing. Let’s do this!

But enough about us, what about you?

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