Recent reports have suggested that there may be light at the end of the tunnel in relation to the misery caused by the COVID:19 pandemic, as initial trials have shown encouraging results. Vaccination is an emotive issue and many of the talking points associated with vaccination programmes will be covered by Year 10 students after Christmas as they study the AQA Biology/Trilogy Unit 3 ‘Infection and Response’.
The girls will learn how vaccinations contain modified pathogens or synthetic versions of the antigens on the surface of the pathogen to stimulate the immune response to produce antibodies specific to the pathogen. The girls learn about the presence of the ‘memory’ white blood cells which provide continued immunity. Vaccination programmes are studied and the pupils learn how they can establish ‘herd immunity’ within the community. The girls also learn about the process for developing new drugs, learning about the pre-clinical and clinical stages of drug development designed to test for ‘T.E.D’ (toxicity, efficacy and dosage). These are terms being routinely used in news reports.
News of the Pfiza/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being mRNA vaccines is of interest to year 11 students currently studying AQA Biology/Trilogy, unit 6 ‘Inheritance, Variation and Evolution.’ During this topic, the girls learn how the sequence of DNA bases within our genes determine the shape and function of the proteins synthesised by our body cells. These new mRNA vaccines use the genetic code of COVID:19 to allow human body cells to synthesise COVID’s antigen protein that then stimulates the body’s immune response.
As we move into 2021, we can only hope that the newly developed vaccines and other newly developed treatments will bring the COVID:19 pandemic to an end, whilst also showing the girls the relevance of the science curriculum. Such developments will hopefully spark the girl’s interest, inspiring them to considering studying science beyond PGHS and contribute towards exciting discoveries throughout their future careers.