Brain fog

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As I mentioned yesterday, I got my second vaccination for CoViD. I feel pretty lucky and this is one of the few times I am grateful for being more than 70 years old. 🙂

As we all need to get vaccinated I thought it might be helpful to briefly share my experience with you.  First shot was a walk in the park: bit of a sore arm, felt listless for a couple of hours, no big deal at all. Second shot was worse. Perhaps 20 hours after getting my second dose, I got the classic sore arm and joints, then chills. Then I got a slight headache and the classic “brain fog”: a fogginess and inability to focus on tasks. I hit hard the bottle of Tylenol and felt much better.

I know there’s lots of angst and misinformation floating around so if you’ll indulge the engineer in me, I want to give you the facts in language that’s easy to understand.

This simple explanation is from one of our closest family friends, Dr. Stuart Weiss. You can sign up for his newsletter here if you’re interested.

We have many cells in our body. Each cell has a nucleus that contains our DNA, the genetic code which makes us who we are. When our cells need to make new proteins, the DNA in the protected nucleus is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) which is then transported out of the nucleus through special pores in the nuclear membrane and into the cell cytoplasm (the cytoplasm is everything inside the cell membrane besides the nucleus). Once in the cell cytoplasm, the mRNA goes to the protein manufacturing part of the cell (the ribosome) and gives instructions on what should be done there. Once the mRNA instructions are given, the mRNA is pretty quickly broken down.

So what do viruses do, you may be asking. A virus injects its own genetic material into our cells and forces our ribosomes to stop making what our mRNA is telling it to make but instead to make complete copies of the virus. These new viruses burst out of our cells and infect other cells to make more new virus. So with viruses, as opposed to bacteria, we create more virus ourselves and viruses could not spread without a nice host, like us. Bacteria, on the other hand, can reproduce on their own given the right conditions.

So this is where the mRNA vaccines like the ones from Pfizer and Moderna get really interesting. The vaccines are little bits of mRNA that get taken into our cells and instruct our ribosomes to make viral spike protein. The vaccine doesn’t give all the instructions to make complete virus copies or we would get sick. It just makes the one spike protein. The vaccine mRNA is degraded pretty quickly but the spike protein is seen by our immune system as foreign and we make antibodies to it and activate t-cells against it. The mRNA can’t get through the nuclear membrane into the nucleus because there is no mechanism to do that. The transport mechanism moves mRNA out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm and not the other way around.

So we get all the benefits of an immune response without having to be infected with the actual virus. It’s really ingenious and it’s not new. Scientists have been looking at mRNA vaccines for decades in the fight against flu, Zika, rabies, and CMV.

Its cool technology and these types of vaccines can be built in a lab against new pathogens more quickly than traditional vaccines. It’s very exciting.

We must all get vaccinated to prevent further widespread infections with variants. The more people that have an active infection, the more chance the virus has to mutate into something worse.

When you are eligible, get yourself vaccinated.