How mRNA and protein-based vaccines use different methodologies to fight COVID-19


ET Online/India Times

18 Nov 2020


On the cusp of discovery


According to a report by IANS, with the two mRNA vaccine candidates from pharma giants Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna showing effectiveness in preventing Covid-19 in an interim analysis, health experts in India on Tuesday said that mRNA vaccine that works on previously unproven technology can be very promising in the fight against the pandemic despite the challenges.


How mRNA works


To date, no mRNA vaccine has been licensed for infectious diseases and if an mRNA vaccine is approved for coronavirus, it would be the first of its type. mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines trick the body into producing some of the viral proteins itself. They work by using mRNA, which is the molecule that essentially puts DNA instructions into action.


No risk from the vaccine


Inside a cell, mRNA is used as a template to build a protein. Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech use the mRNA technology which means the vaccine is not embedded with the virus itself and, therefore, no risk of catching Covid-19 from the shot itself. The vaccine is infused with a piece of genetic code that trains our immune system to recognize the spike protein on the surface of the virus -- a lethal signature of the coronavirus.


Advantages of protein-based vaccines


Vaccines generate immunity by mimicking a milder form of an infection and helping the immune system "remember" the pathogen. So they contain some part of an infectious agent that is capable of generating an immune response, such as the viral genetic material, its RNA or DNA, or the proteins in the virus which interact with human cells. Some vaccines, called vectored-vaccines use viruses compatible with the human body to deliver the DNA or RNA of the novel coronavirus inside our cells, which then instructs them to make SARS-CoV-2 proteins.


What’ll work for India ...