UK regulatory agencies have officially approved the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/Astra Zeneca and Moderna Covid vaccines1,2,3.

Conspiracy theories suggest the vaccines alter your DNA – these are untrue and also fail to recognise how vaccines work. The first two of those vaccines are known as mRNA injections. Traditional vaccines use a weakened form of the virus protein (antigen) to create a protective immune response. In contrast, these mRNA-based jabs use a piece of the genetic code of the virus – a molecule is introduced into the body which tells cells to produce a coronavirus spike protein, or antigen. Once this is recognised by the immune system, antibodies and T-cells are produced to fight infection. Immunity is built 12 days after the first dose with full immunity a week after the second dose, which comes 28 days after the first jab. Scientists believe a half dose ‘primes’ the immune system and the second full dose boosts protection.

The Oxford University vaccine is based upon a harmless cold virus that has been modified in the laboratory to mimic the behaviour of coronavirus when it enters the body, inspiring the same infection-fighting response in the immune system. Scientists believe this jab should give at least a year’s protection, suggesting everyone will need an annual vaccine.

The speed with which these treatments have been approved is unusual but scientists have benefited from years of studying the similar SARS and MERS coronaviruses. In addition, trials have been conducted more rapidly because there have been so many volunteers, research organisations and pharmaceutical companies collaborating. They’ve all followed  the same safety procedures as any jab4. So far, there is no evidence that any trial caused a single death. Like all medicines, there are side effects but there’s an estimated 1 in 1 million chance of someone having a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, lower than the risk of dying from coronavirus.5

There’s also been misinformation about what goes into these vaccines, including scare stories about ingredients like mercury, antifreeze and foetus tissue – all untrue. All ingredients are safe and have been used for decades. For instance, aluminium salts (present in air and water) boost the body’s immune response and so make vaccines more effective, whilst tiny amounts of formaldehyde (already present in our bloodstream) are used to inactivate a virus.

To learn more about the journey of developing a vaccine, read our Q&A (written June 1st, 2020)

 In association with communications consultancy, GF Media