Vaccines, Masks and Handwashing: A Coronavirus Update
In this installment, we follow up on our March episode about the novel coronavirus now that we know more about COVID-19 and how it spreads. Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, assistant clinical professor of infectious diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina, returns to answer questions about the things we can do to keep ourselves and those around us safe. And we'll learn about what vaccines are, how they're developed and the accelerated process for developing a coronavirus vaccine.
As of the day our episode comes out, more than 20 million people around the world are officially known to have gotten the virus known as COVID-19. But even people who haven't gotten sick have been affected by this global pandemic. Lots of you probably had to stop going to school earlier this year, and some of you aren't going back to your school buildings at all as school starts up again in many places. Others will be going back but maybe not full time, and you may have to do things a little differently, like wear a mask or stay in one classroom. Or maybe your family is working to find a different kind of arrangement to make sure you can learn new things and stay healthy at the same time.
Today we're going to get an update on this virus and answer questions we've received about vaccines-a kind of medicine that can help make sure people don't get specific illnesses.
"How do vaccines work?" Cora, 3, Vermont
"A vaccine is a type of medicine that helps train your body's immune system so it can fight a disease it's never come in contact with before," explains Dr. Kuppali. A vaccine is a dead, weakened or altered version of a pathogen (a virus or a bacteria). When you're given a vaccine, your body immediately tries to fight off this strange substance that has been put into your body. It does this by creating something called antibodies.
So your body fights off this weakened or altered version of the virus and then those antibodies stick around. So if the real, stronger version of the virus ever enters your body, your body already knows how to fight it off quickly, to make sure you don't get sick.
Why do so many vaccines have to be given as shots? Well, you'll have to listen to the episode to hear our discussion about that!