Our Creator deigned the human body to defend itself against diseases and infections and has given scientific researchers the knowledge to design vaccines to boost this defense.

November 2, 2021

How vaccines work

Vaccines have been used to eradicate and prevent infection and diseases as far back as the fifteenth century, starting with simple experiments to immunize against smallpox.

Since then, we have a plethora of various vaccines including the development of the novel vaccine against COVID-19. To understand how vaccines work you must first understand how your immune system works.

The immune system is educated to protect self and attack non-self or altered-self via an immune response. One response produces general resistance/barriers via the skin, the lining of the airway and intestines, production of certain proteins like interferon, interactions involving the complement pathways, various inflammatory responses, and natural killer cell activity. This response occurs outside the cell and is temporary.

Another way for the body to protect itself from outside invasion is through specialized white cells that are made in the bone marrow. The easiest way to describe this process is to share an analogy put forth by Dr. Ramon Arscot, plastic surgeon and immunologist. The key function of the immune cells can be compared to the personnel in the police force/army. The T helper cell – the general; Antigen Presenting Cells (APCs) – the detectives; The Killer T cell – the sniper; and B-cell making antibodies – the policer office with handcuffs.

Imagine, the intruder (virus), wearing a green hat, blue jacket brown shoes and a gun slung over his shoulder, enters the body through the nasal passage or mouth. He is immediately picked up by the detective (the APC). The detective (APC) carries the intruder (virus) to the police station (the lymph node) and presents him to the General (the T-Helper cell). The general (T-Helper cell) then gives the command to the police officer (the B-cell) to handcuff (produce antibodies against) the intruder, and also commanded the sniper (Killer T-Cell) to shoot and kill the intruder (virus). The General also ordered the police officer (B-cell) and the sniper (Killer T-cell) to create a memory of this intruder (virus) so that he will be handcuffed and killed the moment a similar intruder enters through the door (the mouth or nasal cavity). There will be no need for the detectives (APCs) upon re-entry because he will be remembered and cuffed and killed on arrival. This response takes two weeks. It is upon this principle that various vaccines work.

Vaccines against coronavirus infections have been studied for decades. “SARS-CoV1 was a coronavirus that caused epidemic from 2002 to 2003 with 11.25% mortality. Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus infection was also a deadly coronavirus infection from 2012 to 2015 with 30-40% mortality” [CDC.gov accessed September 4, 2021]. “Based on data from SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV vaccine studies, as well as observations that antibodies binding to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein can prevent attachment to the host cell and neutralize the virus, the spike protein became the predominant target for COVID-19 vaccine development” [F. Krammer, 2020]. Once fully immunized against SARS-CoV2, it will take less than a week to produce specific antibodies against the virus’ spike protein to prevent entry into the cells and subsequent infection.

Our Creator deigned the human body to defend itself against diseases and infections and has given scientific researchers the knowledge to design vaccines to boost this defense.

Arlene Gayle, MD, was, until recently, a member of the Marshfield (Wisconsin) Church, specializing in medical oncology and hematology. Her interest is in women’s health and stem cell transplant.