What is Covid vaccine made of? Scientist behind Pfizer and Moderna vaccine technology explains
With Covid-19 vaccines widely available, the scientist behind experimental technology used by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna has explained what was baked into the first batch off the production line.
Dr Drew Weissman, a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, is one of the pioneers of the vaccine formula called Messenger RNA (mRNA). He collaborated with Pfizer and BioNTech on their version of the vaccine.
He told The Independent that the vaccine, unlike any that has been developed previously, contains a new technology that delivers genetic code – or directions – that instructs the body to create a copy of the Covid-19 virus “spike” protein, which prompts an immune response.
“The mRNA is produced by an enzyme that copies DNA that contains the protein to be produced,” Mr Weissman said.
“Four lipids are used to create the lipid nanoparticle that self-assemble with the mRNA. They are all created synthetically. The cationic lipid, which is the main function component is proprietary to companies.”
Dr Weissman explains the Covid-19 vaccines contain only the synthetically created mRNA genetic code and four lipids, known as lipid nanoparticles, in contrast to traditional vaccines that are created within living cells and contain components of a virus.
“None of this is made in mammalian cell lines,” he said.
The result is a 95 per cent effective vaccine, according to Pfizer and BioNTech, while Moderna says its version is 94.5 per cent effective.
Traditional vaccines contain an active component to generate an immune response, usually tiny fragments of the disease-causing organism in the form of a protein, as outlined by the World Health Organization.