As we all know the federal and provincial governments have quickly passed a vaccine to combat COVID-19. One selected vaccine type will be the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but what do we know about this vaccine?
Traditionally, vaccines take years to develop, test and finally be approved by Health Canada to be used as a vaccine. They usually undergo lab testing, tests on animals then finally human trials to determine the effectiveness and possible adverse side effects long before it is used in the general population.
Lack of testing can bring a lack of public confidence in the safety and protection the vaccine is giving, but with COVID-19 the world has pushed for a vaccine and the vaccine companies feel confident that they have produced a vaccine safe for human use as well as protection against the virus.
Health Canada authorized the vaccine with conditions on December 9, 2020, under the Interim Order Respecting the Importation, Sale and Advertising of Drugs for Use in Relation to COVID-19.
About the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine (Tozinameran or BNT162b2) is used to prevent COVID-19. This disease is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The vaccine is approved for people who are 16 years of age and older. Its safety and effectiveness in people younger than 16 years of age have not yet been established.
How it works
mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live virus that causes COVID-19. Once triggered, our body then makes antibodies. These antibodies help us fight the infection if the real virus does enter our body in the future.
‘RNA’ stands for ribonucleic acid, which is a molecule that provides cells with instructions for making proteins. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines contain the genetic instructions for making the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.
When a person is given the vaccine, their cells will read the genetic instructions like a recipe and produce the spike protein. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them.
The cell then displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune system recognizes that the protein doesn’t belong there and begins building an immune response and making antibodies.
The side effects that followed vaccine administration in clinical trials were mild or moderate. They included things like pain at the site of injection, body chills, feeling tired and feeling feverish.
These are common side effects of vaccines and do not pose a risk to health.
As with all vaccines, there’s a chance that there will be a serious side effect, but these are rare. A serious side effect might be something like an allergic reaction. Speak with your health professional about any serious allergies or other health conditions you may have before you receive this vaccine.
Health Canada has conducted a rigorous scientific review of the available medical evidence to assess the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. No major safety concerns have been identified in the data that they reviewed.
Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal