Both the FDA-approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA), as well as li[ids to ensure safe delivery, intended to cause your cells to initiate an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. Your body relies on proteins every day to stay healthy. Our bodies use mRNA to tell our cells which proteins to make, which in this case are antibodies.
Vaccines that use mRNA are typically quicker and easier to produce, which has helped accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine process. Although FDA approved adjuvants (aluminum salts) and preservatives (ethylmercury) have a history of safe use in vaccines, they were not used by Pfizer and Moderna in this vaccine technology.
Coronaviruses have a spike-like structure on their surface called an S protein. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give cells instructions for how to make a harmless piece of an S protein. After vaccination, your cells begin making the protein pieces and displaying them on cell surfaces.
Your immune system will recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies.
Early research suggests that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines can provide protection against the COVID-19 variants identified in the U.K. and South Africa. Vaccine manufacturers are also looking into creating booster shots to improve protection against variants.
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%. This means that about 95% of people who get the vaccine are protected from an infection with the COVID-19 virus. This vaccine is for people age 16 and older. It requires two injections given 21 days apart. The second dose can be given up to six weeks after the first dose, if needed.
- Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine has an efficacy rate of 94.1%. This vaccine is for people age 18 and older. It requires two injections given 28 days apart. The second dose can be given up to six weeks after the first dose, if needed.
As stated Pfizer said its vaccine is 95 percent effective, and Moderna says its vaccine is 94.5 percent effective. But myths around a COVID vaccine have still evolved from safety concerns around its record pace of development to the government’s involvement in the rollout. Take the recently circulated myth of microchips and vaccines.
That’s difficult to combat, “because how do you prove a negative,” said Kolina Koltai, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public who studies the anti-vaccine movement.