WASHINGTON — By now you’ve heard the potential good news about vaccines for coronavirus. Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have had positive early results from their clinical trials.
Both vaccines are a relatively new type of vaccine: A Messenger RNA vaccine.
What is a Messenger RNA vaccine?
It is a vaccine that activates the immune system by giving the body the genetic code "A" virus.
Dr. William Moss, a Vaccines expert from Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Paul Spearman an Infectious Disease expert from Cincinnati Children’s hospital.
Here is how vaccines used to work: According to Dr. Moss, vaccines like polio or measles would inject a dead or weakened virus into the patient.
“[Thereby] exposing our immune system to the viral protein to induce an immune response, like killing or an activating the virus or weakening it,” Dr. Moss said.
Messenger RNA or mRNA vaccines work a different way. To understand them you have to understand what mRNA is.
“It is a genetic code, basically, that is sort of ready and in someone's body to make protein,” Dr. Spearman explained.
Dr. Spearman said in the case of these vaccines, the mRNA has the blueprints for a protein of the coronavirus. It allows your muscles to start making these nasty proteins.
“The immune system sees it as if the person had been infected, but it's just that one little piece,” Dr. Spearman said. “So the immune system reacts to it in a very desirable way.”
To break it down: mRNA vaccines give your body the genetic code of how to fight the virus. According to Dr. Moss, this would be a huge breakthrough if it works.
“It's very easy, relatively easy to make an mRNA vaccine, to develop it, and then to actually manufacture that,” he explained.
According to our experts, these would be the first mRNA vaccines to get FDA approval.