The Second COVID-19 Shot Is a Rude Reawakening for Immune Cells

Jasmine Marcelin from the University of Nebraska Medical Center said that the second vaccine has already accelerated the immune system and is ready to go. Side effects are usually short-lived, while COVID-19 can cause debilitating and long-lasting symptoms that can lead to death in more than 2,000,000 people.

The immune system will send cells and molecules to learn the features of a virus so that it can be eradicated more quickly in the future. These same lessons are imparted by vaccines without the involvement of the disease-causing pathogen. It is like water wings or training wheels for the immune system.

Moderna and Pfizer vaccines achieve this pedagogy through a genetic molecule called the mRNA, which is naturally found in human cells. Once the mRNA is delivered to the upper arm, it instructs the body’s cells to make a coronavirus protein called Spike. This molecule triggers strong, infection-fighting antibodies in those suffering from COVID-19.

The vaccine makers wrapped the molecules in lipid nanoparticles, which are greasy bubbles that allow safe passage of mRNA to cells. These strange, fatty spheres are not like anything found in the body and trip the sensors of an army of fast-acting immune cell, known as innate immune cells. They patrol the body for foreign material. These cells send molecular alarms known as cytokines to recruit immune cells to the area of the injection after they have identified the nanoparticles. It is vital to marshal these reinforcements, but the swelling and soreness of the upper arm from the influx cells and molecules can make it difficult to do so. Congregating cells release more cytokines, which flood the body with signals that can cause system-wide symptoms like fatigue and fever.

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