mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. These include the latest vaccines for COVID-19, which are the new kids on the block of the vaccine world.
Five Things You Need to Know:
- Unlike in the past, where vaccines contained parts and pieces of a dead or deactivated virus’s protein or antigen, with the new vaccines you’re not being given a protein, you’re being given genetic material, a tiny strand of code that instructs your body’s cells to actually build a coronavirus protein yourself. This then kick-starts your body’s defenses, mirroring what your body would normally do if it had a natural infection.
- The reason scientists have not been able to do this before now is because these types of vaccines were just too delicate to create, as they were easily destroyed by our body’s immune system. mRNA already exists inside each of our trillions of cells and is used by our DNA, our body's recipe book, as a way to send a message (hence the name) to our cell’s factories to build proteins and thus, doctors say, activating our defenses efficiently and naturally to produce antibodies, without any risk of infection! Moderna and Pfizer are producing mRNA vaccines.
- mRNA vaccines can be developed reasonably quickly and effectively, but, this will be the first time they have been produced on such a massive scale so their effectiveness will also rely upon how exactly and correctly they can be reproduced over and over and over.
- What’s good about mRNA vaccines is that scientists say the risk of them going back into a cell’s nucleus and messing with our DNA — potentially creating other illnesses — is highly unlikely. It’s just not how they work, they’re not “gene therapy” either. They can easily be re-engineered to compensate for any mutation of the coronavirus too.
- Our bodies also break down mRNA in a very short space of time. But it has to be present long enough to make the coronavirus proteins and then it’s up to our bodies to make the immune response. That’s why we need to have two injections weeks apart. It’s a way to be exposed twice. The first one primes our immune system and then the second one ensures our body reacts to the threat, producing greater amounts of antibodies ready to fight off infection.
In the future, mRNA vaccines in particular could lead to finding solutions not just for the coronavirus but also for the flu, rabies and other pandemics or pathogens that will inevitably come our way — ensuring the global health of all our nations and making certain that the human race keeps on running way past the finish line!