What Is a Messenger RNA Vaccine?

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VIDEO | 02:16

Infectious disease specialist Monika Shah explains how an mRNA vaccine works and why it is safe.

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Monika Shah

What is a messenger RNA Vaccine?

TRANSCRIPT

What is a messenger RNA vaccine? Let me first explain it to you by saying that we're all made of proteins. Humans are made of proteins. Viruses are made of proteins. And messenger RNA is basically our genetic material that makes proteins. So it's really quite brilliant actually to just use the recipe manual of the messenger RNA that's needed to just make one specific protein. Not the whole virus and that's an important point to make, but just a piece of it and a piece of the protein that we know is important to generate an immune response from our body. And so when that protein is made, our body gets to work. Our body starts to generate antibodies, which is a component of our immune system to generate the protection we need for now and the future. And the messenger RNA doesn't stay around. Once it does its job, it's gone. It usually disappears and degrades after about two days. It doesn't last or persist in our body once it makes the protein, and the protein in and of itself doesn't last as well. And that's really how the vaccine works. It's very, very safe. And we know that it's safe, not only from how the vaccine is produced, but by the studies that have been done, the clinical trials in tens of thousands of patients to prove that it is safe. It's also effective. It's more than 90% effective. I want to remind everybody that that's pretty incredible as far as vaccines go. No vaccine is a hundred percent effective, and we use vaccines for many other diseases. This is really good. The reason why we were able to get to this point is largely because of scientific advancements and technological techniques that have been developed and perfected over two decades of research. So while the vaccine may be new, the science behind it behind it is certainly not new.