As we head into the next phase of the pandemic, questions are still arising about the vaccines available on the market and how they differ.
What Vaccines Are Available Today?
Moderna and Pfizer were the first two vaccines available in the United States for wide distribution and have many similarities. Both are mRNA vaccines. Unlike traditional vaccines that carry microorganism components or live-but-relatively inactive microorganisms — such as bacteria or viruses — mRNA vaccines carry a genetic code for a component of the microorganism (in the case of COVID, a component of the viral spike protein).
Cells in the immune system use this genetic code to make the viral spike protein. The immune system, which has the capacity to recognize self and non-self proteins, becomes sensitized and ready to mount a more vigorous response to the spike protein when the immune system comes into contact with the virus.
The mRNA vaccines carry the advantage of being able to sensitize the immune system without having to introduce whole bacteria or virus. They also have a shorter manufacturing time. Because the genetic code can be used as a template, it is easier to manufacture these vaccines on a large scale.