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 Northwest Women's Consultants 

The FDA and the CDC have recently reviewed clinical trials for the COVID 19 vaccine and on December 11, 2020, approved emergency use authorization for use of this vaccine in the United States by Pfizer/BioTNech. Additional companies' vaccines are also under review for similar approval. Initial CDC recommendations are to prioritize vaccines to health care workers, essential workers, and those with high risk associated illnesses or over age 65 years. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a Practice Advisory on December 13, 2020 with the recommendation that the COVID 19 vaccine should not be withheld from pregnant patients, those who anticipate pregnancy, or those who are breast feeding. Furthermore, it is their recommendation that pregnancy testing should not be a requirement prior to receiving a COVID 19 vaccine. 

There have been many questions related to the speed in the development of this vaccine, its safety, and the short-term and long-term effects in humans. It is hoped that the information below will answer some of your questions at this time.

In the past, traditional vaccines have used weakened or inactivated viruses, portions of viral or bacterial proteins, or viral toxins to create specific vaccines. Laboratories create these types of vaccines using biologic systems technology. Once the vaccine is made, it is injected into a host and the body’s immune system will react to the vaccine. This will provide protection from illness to that particular virus, bacteria, or toxin.

The down side to the traditional types of vaccinations that use biologic systems technology are that they can take years to make. Also, patients with allergies to portions of the biologic preparation process may be unable to receive that vaccine, such as seen in patients with egg allergies who are advised not to receive the flu shot.  

Scientists have developed a new type of vaccine known as messenger RNA (mRNA) type vaccine. A mRNA type vaccine uses a chemical process to create the vaccine. This chemical manufacturing process may be done in a very short amount of time versus the longer time it takes to create traditional vaccines using biologic system technology. This is why the mRNA COVID 19 vaccine has been created in less than a year. 

In short, the mRNA vaccine uses the host cell’s machinery to produce a portion of the COVID 19 spike protein and create an immune system response. The immune system response can then be activated in the event of a future COVID 19 exposure. This will reduce or eliminate the chances for getting a COVID related illness.

Also, mRNA vaccines are not infectious as no live or attenuated virus is given to the host. They also do not interfere or alter host cell DNA.

For now, we encourage our patients to talk to one of our health care providers regarding your personal health history and individual considerations on deciding to receive COVID 19 vaccine, especially if you are pregnant, anticipate getting pregnant soon, or if you are nursing.

We will make every attempt to provide timely updates on COVID 19 vaccine recommendations as they develop in the coming weeks and months.

For those who are interested, here is a quick tutorial on vaccines and mRNA vaccine technology:

How do mRNA vaccines work?

DNA is contained within the nucleus of each cell, and provides the necessary blueprint for that cell’s production of specific proteins. The DNA does not directly make proteins in the cell’s nucleus but uses the cell’s machinery in the nucleus to recreate portions of a DNA sequence into a mRNA molecule by a process known as transcription. Once the mRNA is produced, it is transported outside the cell’s nucleus and into the cell itself. The mRNA is unable to re-enter the cell’s nucleus where the DNA is stored and does not affect or interfere with the cell’s DNA once it has left the cell’s nucleus. (Think of the DNA as a recipe and the mRNA as the baking ingredients).

Once the mRNA is outside of the cell’s nucleus, the cell’s machinery will use the mRNA molecule to create a specific protein. This process is known translation. After a specific protein has been manufactured in the cell, the protein may be sent to be located on the outside surface of the cell. (Think of this protein as the completed baked item). 

A host’s immune system will encounter or “see” the protruding protein and create an immune system reaction that produces specific antibodies to that protein. If one of the viral proteins matches that particular protein, such as in a future viral exposure, the body’s immune system will be activated and the specific antibodies will attempt to attack and eliminate the virus from the body. (The baked item is eaten).

The mRNA molecule is easily broken down by heat. This is why the mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioTNech must be stored at very low temperatures (minus 94 degrees F).

Traditional Vaccine Types: Historically, all these vaccines are made using biologic systems laboratory techniques, which take time to manufacture. These vaccines have been around for many years and have been well studied for safety, efficacy, and short-term and long-term side effects.

Traditional Vaccines

Live, attenuated (weakened strength) vaccine: Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chicken Pox

Inactivated vaccine: Flu shot, Polio, Rabies, Hepatitis A

Viral or Bacterial subunit/protein vaccine: Hepatitis B, Whooping cough, Shingles

​Toxoid vaccine: Diphtheria, Tetanus

mRNA Vaccine Type: Scientists have been working for over 30 years to devise a way to inject mRNA into a host in order for the host cell’s machinery to produce a specific protein which then can be recognized by the host’s immune system. Because mRNA breaks down very quickly in the body, it took many years to develop a chemical “cocoon” to protect the mRNA molecule long enough for the mRNA to enter the host cell and before the mRNA is broken down by natural processes within the host’s cell. 

The current COVID 19 vaccine uses this technology to allow cells to produce and display a portion of the COVID 19 spike protein on the outside of host cells, which may then be detected by the host immune system. ​

FDA and CDC approved mRNA vaccine: COVID 19

Update on COVID 19 Vaccine

Updated December 19, 2020