LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — As the COVID-19 vaccine is making its way to people around the world, many are questioning if it is safe and how it was produced so quickly.
Rob Swanda, a fifth-year Ph.D. student studying at Cornell University, has a unique way of explaining it, and he ended up going viral on Twitter when he posted a video explaining how the vaccines work.
Here I describe a brief overview of how the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA vaccines work. Taking a vaccine is one’s personal choice, and I hope this video can help someone make that decision rooted in science. pic.twitter.com/ZjFH0DH5ca— Rob Swanda (@ScientistSwanda) December 7, 2020
“The vaccine is going to give you instructions,” said Swanda. “Let’s say like you bought a LEGO set, and you know your body already has all the LEGOs — You just don’t know how to put them together. So, the vaccine is going to give you the instructions to start assembling this set,”
It’s not that simple, though.
“But this set is like, brand new. Maybe a lot of your other ones were Harry Potter or Star Wars, and this one is something completely different. It’s a car design or Game of Thrones,” Swanda said.
“It’s something that you haven’t seen before. So because you’ve never seen that protein or that “LEGO set” before, now you’re going to say “oh” like your body is going to say “we’re interested in that. Let’s start mounting information related to this new thing that we’ve never seen.”
But how did scientists figure out how to “assemble the LEGO set?”
“They found that it’s composed of 29 proteins,” said Swanda, “And the protein that is most involved in helping this virus get inside our cells and begin replicating it is the ‘spike’ protein up on the top. That’s what gives it it’s unique shape and that’s why (scientists) always draw it like that. They looked at all the material here and then they pulled out one piece of genetic material and then they amplified that in the lab.”
But is the vaccine safe?
“Very safe,” said Sparrow Hospital Pharmacy Director Todd Belding. “The vaccine technology using the RNA has been around for a long, long time,” Belding said. “We’ve been looking for the right disease to use it against, we haven’t had a lot of luck in trying to find that disease. Fortunately, COVID was one that works very, very well for that mechanism.”
Swanda said to take vaccine horror stories with a grain of salt.
“One bad effect, that story will always come out over 99 good outcomes.”
It’s a complicated process, but Swanda says it’s important that people understand how it works. Scientists say 70 to 80 percent of people will need to be vaccinated to defeat COVID-19.
You can check out more of Swanda’s videos on his Twitter page.
Here I give an overview of what we currently know about the mutations of SARS-CoV-2. A little too long for Twitter – so available on YouTube (also allows for subtitles!). I do use some technical terms, please find them defined below. https://t.co/H83vTSFY1c— Rob Swanda (@ScientistSwanda) December 22, 2020