A: No. The spike protein delivered by the COVID-19 vaccines does not cause cardiovascular damage.
🤔 Let’s start by taking a look at the role of the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2 infection. The virus can enter our bodies when we breathe in droplets breathed out by an infected person. The virus then gets into lung cells and cells lining blood vessels. It is able to enter because the viral spike protein binds to a protein (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 or ACE2 receptor) on the surface of these cells. Once inside these cells, the virus takes over the cells’ machinery to make more copies of itself. During this process, the virus causes significant damage to blood vessel cells and lung cells.
If the spike protein causes all this damage to our cells, should we be worried about COVID-19 vaccines which also use the spike protein? 😟
Reports that the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus might cause damage to blood vessels has raised concern about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines that are currently approved for use are the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) and the adenovirus vaccines (Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca). All of these vaccines are designed to deliver the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to our immune systems. Our immune system recognizes the spike protein as foreign to our bodies and makes an immune response (antibodies and T cells) that can recognize the virus if we encounter it in the future.
💥The are several important differences between delivery of the spike protein by the vaccine and by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
➡️The virus enters the lungs directly. The lungs have a rich network of blood vessels. Therefore, the virus has an enormous opportunity to enter these cells and cause destruction. The vaccine, on the other hand, is not injected directly into the blood stream. It is injected into the muscles in your upper arm. Spike protein is made in these cells and cells of the ‘lymphatic system’ which includes lymph nodes. The spike protein that is produced by the vaccine does not assemble into live virus. Instead, it remains stuck to the surface of the cells and seen by immune cells as a foreign protein. The lymph nodes and lymphatic pathway are rich in immune cells; therefore the vaccine-spike protein can directly stimulate these cells to make an immune response (which is what we want it to do).
➡️ Lung cells and blood vessel cells bear the ACE2 receptor whereas muscle cells do not. The vaccine-spike protein has little opportunity to get to ACE2 receptors. Studies have shown that a lot of the vaccine stays in and around the injection site. Some vaccine does get into the blood stream, but almost all of this vaccine ends up in the liver which cleans up any extra protein that is made.
➡️ Most importantly, the spike protein that is produced by the vaccine CANNOT make more virus, unlike SARS-CoV-2 virus which enters cells and makes many copies of itself, causing damage to the body. The vaccine spike protein only stays in the body long enough to stimulate our immune systems.
❓What about recent reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) following COVID-19 mRNA vaccines?
Yes, there are reports of myocarditis in a few people who received the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. An Israeli study recorded 62 cases out of 5 million vaccinated people. The CDC is also closely following reports of myocarditis in a few young people who received the mRNA vaccines. Both of these reports stated that myocarditis in these people was mild. A firm link between myocarditis and COVID-19 vaccines has not been established. Although this might just be a coincidence, doctors will be following up on any unusual heart symptoms following vaccination.
👍🏽 BOTTOM LINE: COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Millions of people have now been vaccinated. Vaccines are proving to be effective at decreasing transmission of the virus. Rising vaccination rates are resulting in falling COVID-19 cases.
Stay safe. Get vaccinated.
Those Nerdy Girls
🗞️ Further reading:
Myocarditis and vaccination:
More on COVID-19 vaccines from the Nerdy Girls: