Viral vectors can be understood as tools for molecular biologists for delivering genetic matter into cells. This can either be carried out in cell culture or a living organism. Viral vectors have been a key player in our fight against the COVID-19 virus. They’ve been used in life-saving vaccines, and this article covers all you need to know about viral vector vaccines. We’ll look into how they work, safety concerns, and their role in dealing with past epidemics and outbreaks.
Viral Vector Vaccines: How Do They Work?
With viral vector vaccines, the goal is to inject a modified variant of a unique virus (not the COVID-19 virus) to deliver vital instructions to the cells of our body.
Viral vector vaccines for COVID-19 are administered into the upper arm muscle. Contrary to popular belief, the vector virus for COVID-19 isn’t the same as the virus that causes COVID-19 — it’s a harmless, different virus.
Using the machinery of your body cells, the vector virus produces a harmless “spike protein” — which is also found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
Now, the immune system quickly detects that the spike protein doesn’t belong in the body. This triggers the production of antibodies and immune cells get activated for fighting off this unauthorized intruder.
This reaction from the immune system is very similar to what it would do in the case of a COVID-19 infection. Through viral vector vaccines, the body takes the necessary steps for our protection in advance. Once vaccinated, the body learns how to protect itself from potential future infection from the COVID-19 virus.
To sum it up, you get the necessary level of protection from your immune system without having to risk any harmful consequences which might occur in the case of a COVID-19 infection. Some people who have been vaccinated report minor temporary discomfort for a few days, but that’s a natural effect of the vaccination process.
Facts about Viral Vector Vaccines for COVID-19
Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about these vaccines.
- Some people wrongly believe that the vaccine itself could cause COVID-19 since it also has a modified virus. However, the viral vector in vaccines is a modified form of a different virus that’s harmless — and not COVID-19.
- Once vaccinated, the spike protein doesn’t last long in the body. According to scientists’ estimates, it only sticks around for up to a few weeks.
- The vaccines do not interact or affect the DNA in any way. The genetic material it delivers doesn’t integrate with your DNA.
- COVID-19 viral vector vaccines are held to strict effectiveness and safety standards — and they’re deemed safe and effective.
Even regular viral vector manufacturing companies follow strict guidelines from the relevant authorities.
Role of Viral Vector Vaccines in Recent Viral Outbreaks
Viral vectors were first developed in the 1970s. They’ve not only been used in vaccines, but also in other medical procedures such as cancer treatment, gene therapy, and advanced molecular biology research. In recent years, viral vectors have also been used against Ebola outbreaks. Many studies have been documented on the development of viral vector vaccines to counter infectious diseases like the common flu, HIV, and the Zika virus.