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Science

Southwest Spotlight talks with Manuel F. Valera, Ph.D. about the COVID-19 vaccines

CRISS:  This is Southwest Spotlight on the KENW Public Radio Network. With me now is Doctor Manuel Varela, Biology Professor at Eastern New Mexico University. And I wanted to talk to you today to help answer some questions that people might have. Let me say that I enjoy being on your friend page and watch you and get all of the reports that you make on Facebook. And You do a great job. Hopefully, we can talk people into trusting what you and I are going to talk about-, which is getting vaccinated for COVID-19. The states doing well right now, with 38.8% having one shot in 23.6 are fully protected, but can you tell me about the vaccine. And there are three major kinds that people are getting and what you might know about those?

VARELA:  Yes, well, first of all, thank you for having me on your radio program. I appreciate it. let's see there's the RNA vaccines. Their brand new, and they've been developed over about 25 years now. Molecular biology. Cell biology. Immunology. Virology. And we're just now, you know, invoking them. Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna make the RNA vaccines. They encompass the RNA that codes for the spike protein of the virus and then put it inside a lipid nanoparticle, like a bubble. And they inject that into the patient or the person to be vaccinated. The bubble or fused with the human cell release the RNA inside the cell.

The RNA gets made into Protein. The spike protein goes with the membrane of the cell. Then it is just detected by an immune system. The immune system responds by making antibodies and T cells and memory T cells, memory B cells, and that's the basis of the immunity. The next time you will see that spike protein in a virus, the body will respond to it quickly, and you'll be immune. There is also the viral vectors made by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, and this basically the same sort of thing but a different delivery system. These viral vector vaccines take the DNA that codes for the spike protein and then put it into a weakened attenuated viral vector-like adenovirus. That doesn't cause a cold. Doesn't cause any disease. It's been deleted for all of its pathogenicity. And it will release the DNA into the inside of the nucleus of a cell. And then the nucleus makes RNA. The RNA goes into the Cytoplasm. The Cytoplasm makes Protein. The Protein goes script membrane, and it gets detected.

CRISS:  Very, very-

VARELA:  Traditional ones like the live attenuated weakened strains of actual pathogens. they're not pathogenic, but they are immunogenic. There are inactivated killed vaccines; There are recombinant DNA vaccines; There are toxoid vaccines; there's conjugate antigen vaccines. And for the most part, this is really what we're focusing on now. Those sorts of vaccines, The RNA vaccines, the viral vectors, and then the traditional vaccines.

CRISS:  Alright, well, let's there are some people out there who are hesitant to get a shot. Their kind of- they want to, but they're a little bit afraid. Can you give us some assurance that we're going to be alright if we have one of these vaccines? it's being handled by the state of New Mexico and all medical personnel in this state.

VARELA:  Oh yes, absolutely. You know I've had the vaccine had the price of the vaccine, and I had a sore arm. Maybe I was a little bit tired. But they're safe, and they have very little in terms of severe side effects. You'll be-. You might have a mild side effects for a couple of days. And then after that, you are good to go. You will not get the disease; You will not turn into a zombie; They will not encode your- your-. iI will not change your DNA. you will not have a severe reaction. very rarely will someone have an allergy to it, and they will provide it-

CRISS:  I’M gonna have to interrupt there, Doctor Varela. Thank you very much, and we hope that people will take the opportunity they have to get vaccinated it's very important, and you agree with that, is that correct?

VARELA:  That sure is, absolutely. I agree 100%. Thank you for having me. I greatly appreciate it.

CRISS:  Thank you for talking with me. This is Don Criss, and this has been Southwest Spotlight.