If you've ever wondered why booster shots are important, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, you're in luck. Recently, Alex Dainis uploaded a TikTok video explaining how booster shots work against coronavirus variants — and she broke it down using Play-Doh as a visual aid!
Dainis, who is a science communicator with a PhD in genetics, explains that, basically, your immune system is introduced to the spike protein in the form of the vaccination. The red Play-Doh represents the spike protein, and the photograph of the spike protein represents the immune snapshot of it so that your body can recognize it. If you become infected with the coronavirus, your body will be able to recognize it and neutralize it.
But over time, the virus may pick up mutations, as represented by the green and blue Play-Doh. These variants can start to look different from the original spike protein your body remembers via the snapshot it took when it was introduced.
If the virus mutates drastically over time, your body might not recognize the new variant. In return, the new variant might evade your immune system if it enters your body, making you sick with COVID-19.
A booster shot introduces a new "snapshot" to your body so that it can learn to protect itself against the new versions of the coronavirus. Which is why it's important to get booster shots once they become available!
Dainis spoke to BuzzFeed about her video. "I find things much easier to both describe and understand when they are visual," she explained. "I think it’s important for people to know that viral mutations are expected. As a virus moves through a population, its genome can slightly change or mutate — like a big game of telephone where a message changes a little as it moves through a room of people."
She continued, "Sometimes these changes can have big effects, small effects, or no effects at all on the virus itself and on how it's transmitted or causes disease. But keeping track of these mutations and how these variants are spreading is important to both track how the virus is moving through a population and make sure that if it ever does change in a way that makes our vaccines less effective, we can make new vaccines to keep up with it."
Dainis also explained, "At the moment, many of our current COVID-19 vaccines seem to be doing a good job at continuing to recognize new variants. But it's possible that booster shots may be needed in the future either because original vaccine immunity could fade over time or because new variants could reduce the efficacy of our current vaccines. We just don't know yet."
She added, "I hope my video can help people understand why viral variants could potentially evade immunity from our current vaccines, and be prepared for it in the future. However, at the moment, we still need lots of focus on making sure first and second doses of the current vaccines are accessible to everyone who wants them!"
So if you were on the fence before about getting future booster shots, we hope Dainis has cleared it up for you!