How Does Any Vaccine Find the Bad Guys?

Given all the unfortunate hullabaloo about Covid vaccines, I’m reminded of a vague question that has lived at the back of my brain for some time. How does a vaccine get to the places it needs to be to hunt down the small beasts hoping to take us over as their private home? We are filled with harmless invaders who mind their own business in our guts. Some of them even carry their weight by making us healthier. So how does the vaccine get to the ones determined to make us seriously ill?

My curious thoughts: Why not inject into a vein? It would easily travel through our blood circulation system. A needle would more easily pierce fat than muscle, so why not stick us in our pudgy places? I had to dig deep to discover the answers.

If injected into a vein for some reason, a vaccine is vulnerable to destruction. No explanation found.

Muscle unlike fat evidently has a great supply of blood, which helps disperse the vaccine at a measured rate according to  immunology researchers.  Muscle holds and captures dendritic cells that scoop up injected antigens. (An antigen is anything that stimulates an immune response, most commonly dead virus cells or a small amount of living virus cells of the targeted disease.) These cells then migrate to lymph nodes, and take up residence. Our lymph node system is like the body’s built-in vacuum cleaner. The system filters and cleans the lymphatic fluid of any debris, abnormal cells, or pathogens. When the altered dendritic cells encounter white blood cells in the system such as T and B cells—defenders of our bodies from pathogens—they present them with the injected antigen, saying “See this guy? Go get him.”  

I understand the mRNA vaccines work slightly differently. mRNA controls the production of proteins in our body. Many are desirable essential proteins, but not all. For example, Alzheimer’s disease is associated with buildup of particular proteins. Covid cells are coated with a particular and recognizable protein. mRNA vaccines train our cells to go after any guy wearing the signature protein coat, but the vaccines are injected into the muscle and are distributed into the lymph node system in the same way.

With any vaccine, you may have a sore or red arm, slightly enlarged lymph nodes, but this is evidence that the vaccine is working.

I understand Covid nasal spray vaccines are being researched and developed, but I haven’t heard much about them besides the fact that the nose is the entry point for Covid, making the idea seem worth a look.

♡ Love Your Family and Friends, but ✋Trust Science!

Most of us understand Covid is a serious disease with death a genuine possibility. However, we view our friends and family as decent people who shower, brush their teeth, don’t have body odor, and maintain their homes as well as they can. If we think with our gut instead of our brain we wonder how they could give us Covid? Ditto for ourselves. If we’re feeling fine, we are fine or just have a cold. It is particularly difficult when a person with those views invites others to events, putting people in the awkward position of explaining a lack of trust the event is safe.

Understandably, it will be particularly difficult with the holidays upon us to make tough decisions. Grandparents will be craving to play itchy-gitchy-goomie with their adorable little grandchildren. We all look forward to sharing holiday cheer with our loved ones, but is it worth the risk? Medical scientists don’t think so without quarantines and Covid tests. Thank goodness for online meetings.

This difficulty is why some people have formed bubbles to retain some social contact at low risk. If carefully formed, the risk can be minimized. However, too many people do not understand that this does not mean multiple bubbles: one for neighbors, one for work mates, one for relatives, one for playing sports, etc. Because of something similar to the seven degrees of separtion theory, bubbles should not overlap and be kept small. Bubble members should share their habits, and agree on the rules inside and outside of the bubble. In most cases, social distancing and mask wearing should still be practiced. Consider the diagram below of overlapping bubbles. Imagine yourself as the dot in the bottom right bubble, and someone with Covid labeled C in the bottom left bubble. You may have never heard of person C, but someone in your bubble is only 4 steps away from him or her.

I know we are all weary of masks, not attending fun events, avoiding shopping indoors, but with vaccines and a new administration determined to contain Covid, there is hope the end is in sight.