How safe are mRNA-based vaccines?

mRNA Vaccine | Tebu Bio

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world. This infection is caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and it strongly affects the respiratory tract.

To preserve the population, vaccines have been developed. They are meant to make our body able to trigger an immune response against potential attacks from viruses. It brings protection to our body against infectious diseases, and it significantly reduces the risks to be sick and to suffer from serious consequences.

Two different types of vaccines have been elaborated and proposed to the population: viral vector vaccines and mRNA vaccines. Depending on several circumstances, these vaccines will be injected into people’s systems. Nevertheless, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend starting the vaccination process with a mRNA vaccine.

An unknown newly available vaccine.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines both work with messenger RNA vaccination (mRNA). These two were the first COVID-19 vaccines authorised by the competent American Health Institutions, to be introduced in the United States.

For the first time ever, an injectable mRNA vaccine is being inoculated in someone’s body. Before, mRNA was only used for clinical research and study work. As we don’t know much about it, people are hearing rumours about it and they tend to be quite cautious. Which is a normal reaction.

As any other living creature, we tend to be very careful regarding things we don’t know about. Moreover, vaccine development has been extremely fast, mainly because of the rapid worldwide evolution of the virus.

On their website, CDC gives some information to clarify how mRNA vaccines work. The mRNA is created by scientists in a lab. Their mission is to teach our body cells how to make a specific protein meant to trigger an immune response.

After being injected, mRNA delivers a message to our body cells. They have to produce a piece of protein that is usually found on the surface of the virus, and they have to display that protein on their own surface.

This will indicate to our defensive tools that this protein is not supposed to be here: a potential virus attack might be going on. Antibodies and other immune cells will then be activated in order to fight this infection.

When the fake infection has been eradicated, our body keeps a memory of the event and is now able to protect itself against a future infection from the virus which causes COVID-19. Vaccinated people with mRNA vaccines (as well as viral-vector ones) will prevent them from getting seriously sick with the disease.

Contrary to what one might think, mRNA has absolutely no effect on people’s DNA. It will indeed interact with the cells, but will not enter its nucleus, where our DNA is located. Rumours are also saying that mRNA and the proteins remain inside the body for quite a long time after the vaccination.

But scientists, together with CDC, wanted to reassure people by declaring that mRNA degrades quickly, and that cells get rid of it in a few days. The protein which was created, like any other protein produced by the body, may stay for a few weeks. But at one point, it ends up disappearing from our system.

A not really new technology for scientists.

Even if Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are the first ones to be available to the public, vaccination research used mRNA vaccines many years before. The first human vaccine trials started in 2011, and absolutely no problem has been detected with their use.

Why was it so interesting for the scientific community, you ask? Because these vaccines can be developed very rapidly and easily. As a consequence, this vaccine technology can be deployed very fast and works on a large part of the population.

As scientists were already using mRNA vaccines before the flu or Zika, they knew how it worked. So, after receiving all the necessary information about SARS-CoV-2, they immediately started to create and design mRNA instructions to give to the cells in order to combat the viral infection it caused. Plus, they were able to deploy the vaccine method quite rapidly to the population.

In the future, mRNA vaccines might be able to provide protection to people against various diseases using only one shot, as it is so efficient. Which means that, in some cases, it will not be necessary to receive multiple shots to ensure a long term protection.

Furthermore, CDC reports that mRNA technology is also used in order to trigger an immune response with cancer patients and attack some specific cancer cells.

Being developed within a few months, a major part of the population thought that this vaccine technology was being released too soon. Given the turn that COVID-19 pandemic took, scientists knew they had to be efficient and to propose a rapid solution to this health disaster that was coming our way.

But it is necessary to keep in mind that no drug or vaccine is proposed to the population without being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Very strict safety and effectiveness standards have to be respected for a medical product to be made available for the population of the United States.

To come into circulation, new medical products all have to go through extensive clinical trials in order to analyse the different reactions and make sure that side effects can be handled by the population. Then the product is approved or given an emergency use authorization. Of course, adverse events might be noticed after being injected but these revealed to be extremely rare.

Emergency use authorization allows the FDA to make approved and unapproved medical supplies and treatment available, but only in case of a public health emergency. Which was indeed the case, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guarantee that all steps have been respected to make sure the product was safe and effective, before getting it available to everyone.

Each and every criterion has been met to declare mRNA vaccines safe.


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