A healthcare worker holds a vial of mRNA vaccine between her fingers and thumb
Getty Images/franckreporter

Vaccines help protect us from infections. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we heard a lot about an vaccine called an mRNA vaccine, which is a type of vaccine that protects against messenger ribonucleic acid.

Researchers have been working on the vaccine for a long time.

We will look at how they work, how they work well, and their safety and effectiveness in this article.

Your immune system protects you from external threats, such as disease-causing germs called pathogens. Immune cells become activated when they recognize something in your body as foreign, like pathogens.

Your immune system is activated by what’s known as an antigen. Antigens are often proteins present on the outside of pathogens like viruses or bacteria.

The various parts of your immune system work together to generate an immune response to the antigen, which can include antibodies and killer T cells.

Your immune system has a memory. It can remember its response to the antigens if it encounters them again.

Vaccines harness the power of your immune system’s memory. They work by introducing noninfectious parts of a pathogen to your body, so your body can learn to recognize the invader and kill it before it causes disease.

“Vaccines don’t make you sick.”

A vaccine is a method of preventing disease by inoculating a pathogen. A singleprotein is sometimes used in a pathogen.

The vaccine has a specific antigens that your immune system responds to. If you encounter a pathogen in the future, you should have the tools to protect yourself.

“MRNA vaccines introduce your immune system to an object. They work by teaching your body’s cells how to make their own vaccine, instead of using weakened or inactivated forms of the pathogen.”

This is done by using a type of nucleic acid called mRNA, which tells your body how to make a specific type of molecule. Your cells use messenger RNA to make the important proteins that are needed for your body to function.

As of publication, the only mRNA vaccines currently in use are the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

How mRNA vaccines work

  1. The mRNA is protected by a layer of fat and enters nearby cells after being injected into the upper arm.
  2. Inside the cell, the mRNA sheds its protective fat layer and gives instructions on how to make a spike protein. This is a protein found on the outside of the novel coronavirus. The virus uses it to attach to and enter host cells.
  3. The spikeProtein is destroyed and the cell displays it on its surface.
  4. Your immune system is able to detect foreign particles on the cell surface. They begin to work with other parts of the immune system to generate an immune response.

The immune response to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines after one dose wasn’t very high. Because of this, both vaccines require at least two doses to be effective.

Initial large-scale clinical trials found that, after two doses, effectiveness against disease for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines was 95 percent and 94.1 percent, respectively.

More studies have been done on the effectiveness of these vaccines.

A 2021 study of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine included data from more than 3 million people from December 2020 to August 2021. It found that, compared with unvaccinated people, after two doses the vaccine:

  • 73 percent was effective at protecting against disease.
  • It was 90 percent effective at protecting against hospitalization.
  • The second dose of COVID-19 had a decrease in effectiveness, but still had high rates of hospitalization.

A 2022 study compared 352,878 people who had received two doses of the Moderna vaccine with the same number of unvaccinated people in June 2021.

Researchers found that the vaccine was more effective than unvaccinated people.

  • The rate of effectiveness is 87.4 percent.
  • 95.8 percent was effective at protecting against hospitalization.
  • 97.9% of the time, it was effective at protecting against COVID-19-related death.

mRNA vaccines, boosters, and Omicron

The recommendation for boosters from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant has led to further findings on mRNA vaccine effectiveness.

The two vaccines have decreased effectiveness against Omicron. Research shows that getting a booster can raise levels of protection.

A 2022 study specifically examined the effectiveness of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine against the Omicron variant. Researchers found that.

  • The vaccine effectiveness against Omicron was 44 percent after the second dose.
  • The vaccine effectiveness against Omicron was 71.6% in the 14 to 60 days after the booster, but only 47.4% after 60 days.
  • The Moderna vaccine was still more than 99 percent effective against hospitalization with Omicron despite decreased effectiveness.

A 2021 study, currently in preprint, had similar findings for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This study found that:

  • The vaccine effectiveness was almost always the same after the second dose.
  • After 15 weeks, the protection dropped to 37 percent.
  • “The vaccine effectiveness increased after a booster dose. Researchers didn’t know how long the booster was protecting them.”

The clinical trials for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines found both to be safe overall. When serious side effects did occur, they happened at comparable rates between people who had received the vaccine and those who had received a placebo injection.

A 2021 study analyzed over 11.8 million mRNA vaccine doses between December 2020 and June 2021 for 23 serious outcomes, paying particular attention to:

  • anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that can happen following vaccination
  • myocarditis and pericarditis, two types of heart inflammation that have been reported with mRNA vaccines
  • Bell’s palsy, a temporary facial paralysis that had been observed more commonly, but still rarely, in the vaccine group in the clinical trials of the mRNA vaccines

Researchers found that.

  • of the outcomes occurred at a level that the study was looking for to signal a concern.
  • The rates of anaphylaxis reported by other studies were similar to the estimated rates in the study.
  • Younger people were more likely to have an elevated risk of myocarditis.
  • “There was no evidence that Bell’s palsy was linked to the vaccine.”

Common side effects of mRNA vaccines

There are some common side effects of the vaccine.

Side effects like There is pain in the muscles., There is a throbbing head., and fever are generally more common after the second dose. They typically go away on their own within a few days and can be eased with rest and over-the-counter medications.

While mRNA vaccines may seem new, researchers have actually been studying them for a long time. In fact, the first delivery of mRNA into a cell to make proteins happened in 1978.

Researchers have improved their vaccine technology. They have improved the synthesis of the RNA and the fats that deliver it into the cells.

Other mRNA vaccines have been studied.

Researchers used this existing body of research to develop the COVID-19 vaccines. Other factors that helped the vaccines be made quickly were included.

  • Additional funding from both public and private sources.
  • Clinical trials have timelines that are accelerated.
  • There are high levels of collaboration within scientific communities.

Despite being developed quickly, the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines still needed to be demonstrated in clinical trials. Accelerated timelines didn’t mean corners were cut when it came to testing standards or scientific integrity.

You may have heard about the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of these things are true, while others are not.

Some of the myths about these vaccines are not true.

Myth: Natural immunity is better than a vaccine

We still don’t understand much about how long natural immunity to the coronavirus lasts. Overall, getting vaccinated is a safer way to build immunity, as getting COVID-19 can lead to:

Even if you have already had COVID-19, you should still get a vaccine.

In fact, new research shows that people who have been vaccinated and have had COVID-19 have higher levels of neutralizing antibodies. This is called super immunity.

Myth: The vaccine ingredients are dangerous

In addition to mRNA, these vaccines also contain fats, sugars, and salts. If you’d like more information, the CDC has a list of each ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and what they do.

If you have a history of allergic reactions to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, you should talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine.

The mRNA vaccines do not contain ingredients like:

  • The tissues from animals.
  • It is a type of preservatives.
  • Antibiotics.
  • It is latex.
  • The metals.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine can give you COVID-19

“The vaccines for COVID-19 don’t contain a whole virus. They only contain a piece of the messenger RNA that tells your cells how to make a spike. They can’t cause you to become sick with COVID-19.”

It is possible that you will feel sick after getting your vaccine. This is normal and a sign that your body is making an immune response. The side effects usually go away within a day or two.

Myth: Vaccinated people can shed the vaccine

Vaccine shedding happens when a vaccinated person releases vaccine components into the environment. This can only happen with vaccines that contain a live, weakened form of a virus.

“The vaccines don’t contain a whole virus. They cannot be shed.”

Myth: The mRNA vaccines alter your DNA

Your DNA is contained in the nucleus of each cell. The mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of a cell. Because of this, it cannot alter or affect your DNA.

The vaccine stays in your cells for a short time. It was destroyed after a cell made a spike.

The vaccines teach your cells how to make a temporaryUbiquitin from a disease-causing pathogen. Your immune system can see this and make an immune response against it, which can protect you against disease in the future.

The only vaccines that are currently being used are those for COVID-19. Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna are the companies that make them.

Both vaccines were found to be safe and effective against the coronaviruses that cause COVID-19.

MRNA vaccine technology has promise for the future. Researchers can move forward with the development of a vaccine for other pathogens after building off what they know about COVID-19 vaccine development.