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How Do COVID-19 Vaccines Work? (mRNA)

How Do COVID-19 Vaccines Work?

You may be familiar with the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna, but do you know how they work? Do you also know how it differs from the traditional vaccine methods? You're about to find out, so keep reading...

To begin, let's see how viruses make us sick and what our body does to fight against them. When a virus enters our body, it attaches itself to our cells and inserts its RNA into them. The cell takes this genetic material and makes identical viruses to those it was infected with. As more and more viruses are produced, the immune system becomes alert to the unfamiliar pathogen in the body, and the helper T cells send signals to the killer cell and the antibody-producing cell. Antibodies are then produced, and they latch onto the virus so that it can't infect more cells. It can also act as an indicator, labeling them as "to be destroyed."


However, this process can take a long time because it takes a while for the immune system to figure out how to fight a specific pathogen. To prepare for this process quickly, vaccines were created so that our immune systems could be trained for future exposure to certain viruses.


This brings us to the traditional vaccines we are usually most familiar with and had received the most from doctor's checkups. This includes inactivated vaccines such as the flu shot and live-attenuated vaccines such as those for smallpox. Inactivated vaccines have germs that are killed and live-attenuated vaccines have weakened versions. When these viruses are recognized by the immune system, immune responses are elicited, and memory cells are formed so that the immune system knows how to deal with the virus the next time it infects the cells.


While the goal of training the immune system to recognize and fight these germs is similar, mRNA vaccines go about it a little differently. Take, for example, the COVID-19 Vaccine. The vaccine has the mRNA of the COVID-19 virus, which is genetic material to instruct cells to produce a specific protein, which would be the spike proteins in this case. The mRNA enters the cells and instructs them to make spike proteins, which will then appear at the surface of these cells. As this new surface protein is recognized by helper T cells, it signals the production of antibodies and killer cells against this virus. mRNA COVID-19 vaccines allow our own bodies to produce spike proteins, which lowers the risks and severity of COVID-19 symptoms and can be developed much faster than traditional vaccines.


That's it! Thank you for reading :)

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