How does Pfizer/BioNtech, the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine work?

How does Pfizer/BioNtech, the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine work?

Last update: 14/04/2021

Pfizer/BioNtech contains an mRNA molecule which has instructions for making a protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Pfizer/BioNtech does not contain the virus itself and cannot cause COVID-19.

Pfizer/BioNtech works by preparing the body to defend itself against COVID-19. It contains a molecule called mRNA that holds instructions relating to the production of the spike protein. This is a protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which the virus needs to enter the body’s cells.

When a person is given the vaccine, some of their cells will read the mRNA instructions and temporarily produce the spike protein. The person’s immune system will then recognise this protein as foreign and produce antibodies and activate T cells (white blood cells) to attack it.

If the person later comes into contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, their immune system will recognise it and be ready to defend the body against it.

The mRNA from the vaccine does not stay in the body but is broken down shortly after vaccination.

The mRNA vaccine does not contain any adjuvants (aluminium or otherwise).

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