COVID-19 mRNA vaccine: Will it save the world? Here’s what you need to know

A nurse prepares a vaccine to be given to a child. A revolutionary mRNA vaccine is hoped to provide an antidote for COVID-19 and against a whole new class of pathogens, or infectious agents, for which no vaccine exists yet. The traditional vaccine industry usually takes time to get themselves organised and develop a shot for a new infectious disease, averaging of 16 years. mRNA could potential speed up this process. In many ways, it digitises vaccine development, using nano technology, to enhance the human body’s own machinery to do exactly what the body does once infected.Image Credit: Reuters

The world has reopened, but we’re all still waiting for a vaccine. A COVID-19 jab is considered the key to lifting social-distancing measures, reopening schools, markets and events around the globe.

Among the front-runners in vaccine development, there are several methods being used: live-attenuated, inactivated, subunit, toxoid, DNA and mRNA.

Today, the most advanced method is the mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid).

This relatively new platforms remains unproven, but holds much promise. This technology, if it delivers, is hoped to speed up — “revolutionise” — vaccine development.

What do vaccines do?

In general, vaccines “train” and strengthen the body’s immune system to develop resistance against pathogens and illnesses by imitating an infection — to kick up a natural immune response specific to the infectious agent (such as COVID-19 virus).

Why is an mRNA vaccine being dubbed ‘revolutionary’?

Nucleic acids are the basic building blocks of life. An RNA (ribonucleic acid) vaccine or mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine is a new type of vaccine.

DNA vs RNA
Among the front-runners in vaccine development, there are several methods being used: live-attenuated, inactivated, subunit, toxoid, DNA and mRNA.Image Credit: Gulf News / https://bit.ly/3dmt4wi

mRNA vaccine is seen as the new hope for the world, now among the most advanced in human trials (Phase-2) to screen a safe and effective COVID-19 shot that will be used on the world’s healthy population.

Developing immunity to SARS-CoV-2 would render the virus no worse than the seasonal flu.

There are four phases in vaccine trials, the first 3 being the most crucial.

At the end of the Phase-1 trial of mRNA-1273, involving 45 volunteers, the company said the results were “encouraging”,  moving it closer to getting the licence for the first mRNA vaccine for human use.

On May 12, Moderna received fast-track approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for mRNA-1273. On May 18, the company announced positive interim Phase 1 trial data.

On May 29, the first volunteer under Phase 2 testing of the vaccine was dosed, this time with an estimated 600 participants — including adults below and above age 55.

Phase-3 study (involving thousands of volunteers) begins in July 2020 for Moderna.