Breaking Down the Covid Vaccine Updates


Sydney Leahy, Editor

Covid-19 quickly and effectively changed the everyday lives of all 7 billion people on Earth. What people want is for all of this to be over. They want to go outside without fearing for their lives and they want to hug their loved ones again. A major breakthrough in the fight to return to normal was made when Pfizer submitted an EUA(Emergency Use Authorization) for their vaccine on Friday, November 20.

“I was just reading that they’ve submitted an EUA for Pfizer’s product today, and it will be at least two weeks,” said Nathan Segall, a principal investigator for both the Moderna and Pfizer trials.  “They anticipate that we will have approval and subsequently begin vaccinating individuals here in phase one by the middle to the latter part of December.”

To better understand the importance of this vaccine, one must understand how it works.

“They both utilize a messenger RNA product that codes for the glycoprotein, the spike protein, on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. What is that?” said Segall. “Whenever you see a picture of the virus, you always see those little spikes, or Corona crowns that come out. And those spikes are very important. Their function is that they attach to human cells. They have a receptor that they were being attached to in the upper and lower airway. And what that then does is allow the virus to seep into the human cell.”

As a virus, it must use a living cell to replicate and survive.

“Why is that important?” said Segall. “That’s important because a virus is an intracellular obligate parasite. Simply put, it has to be inside the cell to replicate itself. And it may be able to exist on plastic, or wood, or on glass for hours, but it will not be able to live very long there because it cannot replicate itself. However, it can do that, if it can get inside a human cell and attach to its power source.” 

The vaccine allows the body to produce the spike before it comes in contact with the actual virus.

“So what […] Moderna and Pfizer have done is they have developed the capacity to have you, me, anyone receiving the vaccine, produce the spike,” said Segall. “You produce, if we inject you with the application […], you then produce just the spike, not the virus. And by producing the spike and extruding it out of the cell, you then have an immune response, recognizing that spike is foreign, you have an immune response. And you then develop antibodies to […] the spike. Why is that important? Because that’s on the outside of the cell. And once it’s surrounded by antibodies, it will then subsequently destroy the virus or neutralize the virus.” 

However, production of the spike is not the body’s only response.

“In addition, you also have a more complicated immune response, what is referred to as a cellular response, where you in your lymphatic system will develop T cells, lymphocytes that can directly kill the virus and accentuate the antibody production as well,” said Segall. “And that’s a very complicated immune response. And typically, we have to give two injections to optimize the immune response to the point that it would be comparable to what an individual who was very ill-developed in regards to their immune response.” 

A few members of society, known as anti-vaxxers, may not be willing to receive the vaccine. 

“I’m just fascinated by anti-vaxxers, because most anti-vaxxers tend to be the same people who don’t believe in Covid, so that’s going to be complicated to work around,” said junior Lucy Samuels “And I’m curious how the government, or just health providers will work around that.”

For everyone questioning the validity of the Covid vaccine, rest assured – it is thoroughly tested for both safety and effectiveness.

“How do we determine whether or not it’s safe?” said Segall. “We collect information from individuals immediately after they receive the vaccine. They fill it in on a twice a day basis for seven days. And then we subsequently speak with them to make certain that if they had any side effects, they’ve all resolved. We do that after the second vaccine as well. In addition, we follow them for any medically adverse events that they may have over the period of time of the study. So that if there was something that was unusual, that may have popped up, we would have knowledge of that. But in addition, we look at individuals for the development of the disease. We follow them to determine whether or not they have developed the COVID-19 disease. And how do we determine that? If we were to see them, we collect all of the clinical information. And then we do a nasal swab to determine if it’s positive for Covid, for the virus. If it is positive, then they count.”

The tests are conducted in such a way that biases towards patients and results are not possible. 

“The study that we conduct is all blinded, so that I, as a principal investigator, do not know whether the participant has received active or placebo so that there’s no bias, [nor] are they aware of it,” said Segall. “Now, they may suspect, because of side effects that they had, that they may have received an active vaccine, but that’s not known. Only about 30 to 40, 45 percent of the people receiving the vaccine may have any side effects at all.” 

It appears that many students at Chamblee would be willing to receive the vaccine once it was properly tested.

“I feel like if they’re passing out the vaccine, why not get the vaccine?” said Samuels. “Everyone wants this to be over, so why not give it a try? I feel like there’s no use in not trying. It’s just kind of a win-win situation, or a win-nothing-really-happens situation. Nothing really bad would come out of giving the vaccine a try, so yes.”

Another Chamblee junior, Emma Hall, agrees.

“Yes. I believe that once the vaccine has been tested and proven to work, I will get the Covid vaccine,” she said,

Though this virus quickly overtook all semblance of normalcy, the hard work of dedicated professionals has been a true marvel.  

“It is remarkable that we have been able in such an expedient fashion to bring a safe and as highly effective vaccine as both the Moderna and Pfizer products are,” said Segall. “It is the miracle of medicine/science.”