Understanding how vaccines work against COVID-19

Some of the leading SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates are “mRNA vaccines,” based on incorporating the genetic blueprint for the key spike protein on the virus surface into a formula that when injected into humans instructs our own cells to make the spike protein. In turn, the body then makes antibodies against the spike protein and they protect us against viral infection.

This strategy is faster than more traditional approaches, which often involve generating weakened or inactivated forms of a live virus or making large amounts of the spike protein to determine whether they can prompt an antibody response.

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