As of August 19, 2021, over 4.41 million people have died from the novel coronavirus. Not only that, but countless other people have been hospitalized and are now living with lifelong health consequences.
Thankfully, scientists worked hard to develop vaccines, which have now been distributed to much of the world. Some of them are mRNA vaccines, such as the ones from Pfizer and Moderna.
What are mRNA vaccines and how do they work? Here’s a brief guide.
What Are mRNA Vaccines?
mRNA vaccines are a relatively new type of vaccine, but they’re not completely new. They’re made with messenger RNA (which is mRNA for short), which are responsible for making proteins in your body.
With the COVID-19 vaccines, they teach our bodies how to make a protein that’ll have an immune response to COVID cells. As a result, our bodies will fight off any sign of the virus if we’re exposed to it!
How Do mRNA Vaccines Work?
First, the mRNA vaccine is injected into your arm muscle. The mRNA then teaches the muscle cells to make a harmless spike protein, which is what the coronavirus has (except it’s definitely harmful!). Once your muscle cells have successfully made the spike proteins, then they break down the vaccine’s “instructions”.
The cells that have made the spike protein then basically wear it on their outsides. The immune system then sees that the spike proteins are something foreign. As a result, this stimulates antibody production.
Once you have antibodies to the spike protein, this means that your immune system will immediately recognize the coronavirus as an intruder and your body will fight off any infections in the future.
Do note that mRNA vaccines do not carry live viruses, which means you’re not actually infected with COVID-19. Also, mRNA does not enter the nucleus (center) of your cells. This means your DNA is not altered if you get the vaccine.
mRNA vs Traditional Vaccines
Traditional vaccines use a small piece of a bacteria or virus (also called the antigen), which would trigger an immune response in your body once introduced. On the other hand, mRNA vaccines teach your cells to fight against invaders.
As far as production goes, mRNA vaccines are much quicker to make since they come from a DNA template. Traditional vaccines need to be grown in chicken eggs or mammalian cells, which takes much more time. mRNA vaccines are also much safer since there’s no need to grow viruses in the lab.
To learn more about mRNA technology, Kenneth Chien, co-founder of Moderna explores its future.
Get Vaccinated if You Aren’t Already
If you were on the fence about mRNA vaccines, then we hope this article has helped put your mind at ease. The way forward out of this pandemic is for as many people as possible to get vaccinated.
While vaccinations won’t prevent you from getting the virus, they can dramatically reduce the chances of death and hospitalization. As a result, we’ll be able to resume normal life a lot quicker!
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