Oklahoma Doctor Offers Closer Look At Research Behind COVID-19 Vaccine


Tuesday, December 8th 2020, 10:14 pm
By: Kristen Weaver


In Oklahoma, a vaccine may only be days away from arriving for healthcare workers. Senator James Lankford said the COVID-19 vaccine could be here in Oklahoma this weekend, or Monday. 

Doctors said while the vaccine may be groundbreaking, the science behind it is nothing new. A doctor said the medical community has been researching this science for decades, but COVID-19 is the first time they've needed to use it in a vaccine.

Dr. Eliza Chakravarty is an associate member at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and does extensive vaccine research.

She said many people are confused about a vaccine being created so quickly, but actually the science has been around for years, and past viruses like SARS and MERS are incredibly similar to COVID-19 in their makeup.

"We had a couple head starts and lucky breaks that have helped this move very quickly," Chakravarty said.

At the beginning of the year, research about the virus' structure was released to everyone so pharmaceutical companies could begin testing a vaccine.

Dr. Chakravarty said when someone gets the vaccine, they're basically receiving a recipe for the protein in COVID-19, so if you get COVID-19, your body already recognizes it.

"We're giving our cells cake mix," Chakravarty explained. "Our cells make the cake, we eat it, make the protein and the cake is gone."

She said COVID-19 mutates very slowly, and even if it changes, the protein will stay relatively the same, meaning it likely won't be an annual vaccine like the flu shot.

"Mutations do not affect that outer spike protein," Chakravarty said. "Even if other parts are changing, it won't affect our immune response."

Dr. Chakravarty said the vaccine is worth taking regardless of which company makes it. She said about 50,000 people have been tested in each clinical trial and said the FDA has tough safety measures when approving medications

"There's an end in sight," she said. "We can do this, and I think that's really exciting."

Once it's approved, the vaccine could arrive in Oklahoma in about a week and will go to healthcare workers and people in long term care facilities first.

Doctors said there's no point in getting the first one if you aren't going to get the second. Both are important to be effective.