A Covid-19 vaccine
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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on LearnEnglishVocabulary.co.uk. There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.
This week we had the great news in the UK that the first vaccinations against Covid-19 have taken place so I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about some of the language you might come across in articles about the coronavirus vaccine. I’m going to look at words and phrases from an article on the Guardian website about the development of the vaccine. I will include a link to the original article on the learn English vocabulary website on the page for This podcast.
I’m going to start by looking at the first paragraph from the article because there’s quite a lot of nice language in there and then I’m going to go through six pieces of vocabulary that are specifically related to the covid vaccine.
The first line is:
The emergence of vaccines against Covid-19 has been hailed as a gamechanger by experts
I suppose I should explain vaccine first, though I can’t imagine there are many people in the world right now that don’t have a pretty good idea what it means. A vaccine is a medical treatment that contains a form of a virus or bacterium that you get, usually through an injection that means you cannot get a particular disease.
Before there were vaccines, there were inoculations. To inoculate means to give people a weak form of a disease so that they produce antibodies, those are the cells in your body to fight a specific disease so you don’t get sick. If you catch a virus and recover, usually, you can’t catch the same virus again because your body has developed the antibodies to fight it.
There is evidence of inoculation to protect against smallpox in China in the sixteenth century. Smallpox was a disease that killed millions of people. In 1796, a British doctor created a vaccine using a different cowpox virus. The word vaccine is actually derived from the latin word for cow, vacca. It’s rather depressing, but it wasn’t until the World Heath Organisation existed that we were able to vaccinate against smallpox effectively and the disease was officially eradicated in 1980. Eradicate means to completely get rid of something bad.
Emergence is a noun that comes from the verb to emerge. To emerge means to appear or to become visible by coming out of hiding. So the sun might emerge from behind the clouds or as person might emerge from their hiding place. You might read about a hibernating animal emerging in the spring. The noun form, emergence, means the arrival or start of something. It’s connected to being seen so in this first sentence, it means the world’s recognition of the arrival of the vaccines.
A gamechanger is originally something or someone that can change the results of a game or match. So gamechanger can be used to talk about really strong football players. More commonly, gamechanger is used in a figurative sense to describe something that has a massive impact on a situation. So perhaps a company is in trouble and then they secure a really valuable contract, the CEO might say, that contract was a complete gamechanger. When experts say that the emergence of a Covid vaccine is a gamechanger, they mean it will completely change the covid situation.
One more bit of interesting advanced language from this first sentence. The vaccine has been hailed as a gamechanger. The verb hail means the same as describe but it also means praise. So if you hear someone has been hailed as a hero, it means they have been described as hero in praise or with approval. You would never hail someone as a failure, you only use hail in positive descriptions.
Let me repeat that first line:
The emergence of vaccines against Covid-19 has been hailed as gamechanger by experts
but polls have revealed the speed of their development and approval is a matter of concern for some people.
To develop something means to build or create something. Software developers create software, that is programs for computers. If you build something new that required a technical or scientific process, you can use the verb develop. For example, government scientists have developed a new surveillance system.
Approval comes from the verb approve which means say something is OK. In the case of the covid vaccine, there are official organisations that have to say that the vaccine is safe. When they say that the vaccine is safe, they are approving the vaccine or they are giving or granting approval.
A matter of concern
A matter of concern is quite a strong collocation. A matter means a subject or situation. It’s usually used when the situation is bad. If you have a problem and report it to the police, they might tell you, don’t worry, we’ll look into the matter right away. It’s similar to problem, but it’s not always negative. A matter of concern means a situation that people are worrying about. Concern can mean worry and it can also mean a topic that is important or interesting to you. If something does not interest you, you can say that’s no concern of mine or that doesn’t concern me.
Now I’m going to go through 6 more pieces of vocabulary related to the covid vaccine. These are on taken from the article so will help you understand if you want to read it after this podcast.
The first word I want to talk about is virus. I don’t know what a virus actually is. it’s like a little bug, it’s organic material. What I do know is there are two things that normally make you sick. Bacteria and viruses. I don’t really know what bateria are either, but I know they make you sick and you find them in dirty places. When you get sick, you can have a bacterial infection or a viral infection. If you have a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. But they don’t work for viruses.
The next piece of vocabulary is genetic sequence. This is another scientific phrase that I will have to be careful with. The first word genetic, relates to genes which are the parts of DNA that control how something grows and behaves. DNA is made up of chemicals called nucleotides and the order of these chemicals determines their nature. Genetic sequencing means documenting the order of these chemicals in an organism’s DNA so that you can understand it. Scientists in China identified the genetic sequence of coronavirus and shared it with scientists around the world.
I have another complicated bit of language: genetic material. Genetic material is DNA and RNA. In the article, it suggests that genetic material from the virus, that is, part of the genetic sequence has been slotted into another, less dangerous virus. This virus can then be injected into people and then the natural immune system, that is the body’s defence against illnesses and diseases will create antibodies that can stop the less dangerous virus and also the parts of covid-19 that were slotted in. The immune response that blocks these parts of covid-19 will protect the people who receive the vaccine if they come into contact with full strength covid-19.
This approach makes use of something called platform technologies. The platform is the simpler less deadly virus. By slotting genetic material from covid into the less dangerous virus, they use the simple virus as a platform to deliver the virus. I have learnt this from the article and news reports, but I admit that I have no idea how you can slot bits of a genetic sequence into a virus. It’s very impressive.
Before any medicine is approved for use on people, it has to undergo clinical trials. Clinical trials are very tightly controlled tests that usually happen in four stages. The first stage tests how a drug is processed in the body. The second trial aims to find what the best dose of a drug is. The dose is the amount of the drug that a person can take. The third trial compares the new drug to alternative therapies and the fourth trial or phase 4 trials test the drug on much larger numbers of people to make sure it’s safe and there aren’t any side effects. These phases normally follow on from each other, but because of the money and demand, some of these trials have happened at the same time for the covid vaccine which is partly why the vaccine has been developed so quickly.
The last phrase I want to describe is regulatory agencies. These are the official organisations that look at the results of the clinical trials and grant approval for the new medicines. In the UK, the regulatory agencies were the first in the world to grant approval for the new covid vaccine.
OK – there you have a lot of advanced language related to the new covid vaccine. I suggest you take a look at the article in the Guardian that I have pulled this vocabulary from to see the language in context.
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Thanks for listening.
Read the article
Now you can read the original article on the Guardian website: