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Can COVID vaccines shed spike proteins – and is that bad?

They’re the key to a vaccine’s effectiveness, but can they actually cause health problems?

Illustration of the spike proteins (red) from the B.1.531 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the cause of the respiratory illness Covid-19. The mutation site of the new variant is yellow. The spike protein binds to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2, blue) in the host cell membrane, mediating viral entry to the host cell. B.1.531 was first identified in the South Africa. Its mutation may help it evade the immune system.
Illustration of the spike protein (red) from the B.1.531 (Beta) variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the cause of the respiratory illness Covid-19. The spike protein binds to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2, blue) in the host cell membrane, mediating viral entry to the host cell. Credit: JUAN GAERTNER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/ Getty Images.