What are mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and how do they work?

What are mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and how do they work?

A mRNA vaccine doesn’t contain dead or weak virus or bacteria

Representative image. Credit: AFP File Photo

First indigenous mRNA Covid-19 vaccine received DCGI approval on Tuesday, for Phase II/III clinical trials to examine its protective efficacy.

The Indian mRNA vaccine against Covid-19 is created by Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd, a Pune-based biotechnology company in partnership with the Department of Biotechnology. 

“It is a matter of pride that Nation’s first mRNA-based vaccine is found to be safe and the Drugs Controller General of India has approved the phase II/III trial. This is an important milestone in our indigenous vaccine development mission and positions India on the global map for novel vaccine development,” said Renu Swarup, Secretary, DBT.

Along with that, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna whose mRNA Covid-19 vaccines have shown about 95 per cent efficacy are also in conversation with the central government to launch their vaccines into the Indian market.

Read | India's first mRNA Covid vaccine safe in early trials, say regulators

So what are mRNA vaccines?

As the name suggests, the mRNA vaccine contains molecules called messenger RNA in them which are necessary for protein production.

How are they different from regular vaccines?

Usually, vaccines contain dead or weak forms of the virus or bacteria to trigger an immune response to it, but mRNA vaccines don’t contain the virus or bacteria in any form.

The mRNA in the vaccine when goes into the cells uses information from the genes to create a blueprint for making the proteins. As soon as the proteins are made, they quickly break down the mRNA.

How do the mRNA vaccines work?

The vaccine uses mRNA which corresponds to a viral protein-- usually found in the virus’s outermost membrane. After the introduction of the mRNA in the cell, it produces the viral protein using the genetic blueprint. This triggers the production of antibodies in the body as the body recognises the viral protein as a foreign particle.

Even after the pathogen leaves the body, the body gets used to producing antibodies when the actual virus enters the body. This way when the Covid-19 virus enters the body, it quickly responds to it by producing antibodies to fight it.

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