Technology underlying COVID-19 vaccines a massive medical breakthrough

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Two new vaccines against the coronavirus that are poised to reach the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval are based on a new method for building vaccines that represents a groundbreaking shift in the way future vaccines are developed, a silver lining to the deep dark cloud of a global pandemic.The candidates, one developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health and the other created by Pfizer and the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, are called messenger RNA vaccines, or mRNA for short. Early studies have showed both vaccines are around 95 percent effective in preventing coronavirus infections, a tremendous rate that has thrilled health experts.“To say that [the early results are] proof of principle for mRNA vaccines is just a gross understatement,” said Ruth Karron, director of the Center for Immunization Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This is confirmation of this technology, and I think certainly for this kind of platform, mRNA is ideally suited for a pandemic situation.” ADVERTISEMENTThe mRNA vaccines use a small segment of the ribonucleic acid of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, wrapped in a lipid shell. Once injected, the shell attaches to a human cell, and the segment of …

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