by Dianna Soma (our Pharmacy Intern)
With the news that two mRNA vaccine candidates for Covid-19 (the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine) have achieved at least 95% efficacy in Phase 3 clinical trials, public interest in mRNA vaccines is growing. mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural immunity to develop an immune response to a virus. The mRNA in these vaccines is like a set of instructions that tells the body how to make a harmless protein that is found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus. Once the body learns how to make the protein, the body’s immune system can recognize the protein on the virus itself and mount an immune response against virus. Compared to traditional vaccines, mRNA vaccines are faster and cheaper to produce because they don’t need to be grown in cells like many traditional vaccines. In addition, because the vaccine doesn’t contain an infectious component, it’s impossible to get Covid-19 from the vaccine.
     However, the road to a Covid-19 vaccine is still paved with challenges. For example, we don’t yet know how long the vaccine will be effective. In addition, while Moderna and Pfizer report no serious side-effects from the vaccines, patients may experience fevers, fatigue, and muscle pain after getting the shot. Fortunately, these side-effects don’t happen to everyone and seem to only last a few days but health experts are concerned that they may cause people to be more hesitant about getting the vaccine. Finally, because mRNA is easily broken-down, the vaccine may need very specific storage conditions that would make distribution difficult; particularly in rural areas or developing countries.
     If these obstacles can be addressed and outcomes continue to be favorable, Covid-19 vaccination may begin as early as the end of December.