mRNA and Why You Need To Know What It Is
If you are reading about the Covid-19 vaccines our nation is rolling out, then maybe you saw something about mRNA. The two vaccines offered throughout the U.S. have been made using mRNA instead of a weakened version of the virus, which is used for annual flu vaccines. Right away, you can be assured you cannot get Covid-19 from the vaccines, since they do not use the virus itself. Paragon Orthopedic Center wants to help you understand the mRNA technology because there is a lot of misinformation being spread about these vaccines that is resulting in unnecessary fear.
What is mRNA?
mRNA, or messenger RNA, is part of the DNA in our genes. It provides the genetic code, or the instructions, to outside the nucleus of the cell. It helps the cell carry out its designated function.
How does mRNA work in the Covid-19 vaccine?
The mRNA created by the vaccine makers tells our cells to create a harmless “spike protein.” That spike protein, which is the same as the spike protein on Covid-19 cells, is recognized in the body as foreign and produces a response to create antibodies for a cellular immune reaction. This is what would happen if your body was infected with the Covid virus, except with the vaccine, you don’t have all of the flu symptoms. If your body encounters the same spike protein of Covid-19 after having the vaccine, your body already has produced immunity to it. Your cells will destroy the virus and you will not have any of the aches, fevers, cough, fatigue, headache, loss of smell, or any other symptoms of this illness.
Can it change my DNA?
No. The mRNA that makes the spike protein never enters the cell’s nucleus, which is where our genetic material (DNA) is.
What is unknown?
Researchers do not know how long immunity lasts, either after having Covid-19 (natural immunity) or having the vaccine. Researchers are keeping track and watching this closely. They also don’t know if you can still infect others after having the vaccine. What does this mean to you after you have the vaccine or a case of Covid? For now, it means you should still wear your mask and physically distance yourself from others as you did before you were ill or vaccinated.
Do I have options for the vaccine and are there alternatives to the mRNA vaccine?
There are two mRNA vaccines authorized for use in the United States as of today: Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. Because there are not a lot of these vaccines available, you don’t have a choice between the two right now. Both have similar efficacy and require two doses, but one you wait 3 weeks between doses and the other you wait 4 weeks. For an alternative to the mRNA vaccines, there are two hybrid vaccines using adenoviruses to fight the Covid-19 virus instead of mRNA that are still awaiting approval. They work similarly to the annual flu vaccine, and use a weakened form of a chimpanzee common cold adenovirus.
Can Vitamin D help protect me?
There is some evidence that says Vitamin D might help. People who take Vitamin D are less likely to develop acute respiratory tract infections, so it might increase your body’s natural defenses. It also might help prevent an exaggerated inflammatory response, which happens in some Covid-19 cases. Studies are ongoing. Our bodies naturally make Vitamin D when exposed to sunshine, and 5 to 10 minutes a day of sun exposure to the arms, legs, or back will provide enough for your body to make the daily Vitamin D you need. Foods high in Vitamin D are: egg yolks, fatty fish, supplemented foods like milk products and cereals, and cheese. A supplement that provides up to 1,000-2,000 IU of Vitamin D is likely safe for most adults each day.
What can I do to keep my immune system strong?
- Drink alcohol only in moderation (no more than one/day for women, no more than two/day for men).
- Don’t smoke or vape and if you do, quit as soon as possible.
- Eat a healthy diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Take Vitamin D if you don’t believe you are getting enough from sun exposure or through your diet.
- Exercise regularly and get some walking in every day.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Monitor your stress level and employ techniques that work for you to keep it low.
- Control your blood pressure if you know yours is high.
- Make efforts to minimize your exposure to germs using hand sanitizer, hand washing, and keeping your hands away from your face.
- Get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
The following articles were referenced for this newsletter: