If there is one thing that we can all agree on during this COVID-19 pandemic, it would be that it takes over a year to develop a vaccine.
How come Moderna was able to start phase one of its clinical trials just sixty-three days after China shared the genetic sequence of this new coronavirus, though? This can cause people to be wary towards the vaccine and hesitant about being vaccinated, so I'm going to clear it all up for you so that you will have a great understanding as to how this particular vaccine by Moderna was developed so differently than the traditional ways of making a vaccine, allowing them to do so in record time.
Let's talk about the two traditional ways to develop a vaccine and how they work.
The most common and oldest way of developing a vaccine is to grow a weakened version of the virus for months, in chicken eggs for example, before it is injected into the human body. This weakened version of the virus, incapable of reproducing or damaging our cells, then causes our bodies to have an immune response. Our bodies learn about the virus, fight it off, and develop antibodies that will help fight off the virus if the person were to actually contract that virus.
Next is a newer approach. Instead of growing the entire weakened virus, scientists only grow a part of the virus that they believe will trigger the body into an immune response, which will then cause the body to learn about the virus, fight it off, and develop antibodies that will help fight off the virus if the person were to actually contract the virus. And instead of growing it in chicken eggs, they grow it in yeast cells - also for months.
The approach that Moderna is taking for their COVID-19 vaccine is a new way that has never been done before. It does not involve the growth of, or even usage of, the actual virus itself.
Therefore, Moderna is not undergoing the months that it takes to grow a virus. Instead of injecting people with the virus, they will be injecting people with a part of COVID-19's genetic code. This is how they were able to develop their vaccine and start testing it in clinical trials only 63 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared. This is how they developed the vaccine in record time.
They take only the part of the code that instructs cells on how to make the virus's spike protein. It is then encoded into mRNA, and it is injected into the human body.
This will then instruct your "cells to make copies of the spike protein [that can be found on the actual virus] as if the cells had been infected by the coronavirus." The body will then have an immune response - learning about the virus, fighting it off, and protecting the body from getting sick with the virus if it were to come into contact with the actual virus.
"What makes this approach different, is that you don't need to make the virus itself to make a vaccine, [which is] a time-consuming and intensive process."
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