With mutations to the COVID-19 virus surfacing around the world, there’s growing concern over whether newly released vaccines can keep up. But experts say the advanced technology used to create them is a significant advantage.
“That is clearly an advantage of the mRNA platform. I mean this is highly adaptable, flexible,” said Stanford immunology professor Bali Pulendran, Ph.D.
Pulendran is describing the technique used by both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, known as messenger-RNA. Essentially, it’s a genetic script delivered into the body. It instructs our cells to make a safe fragment of the COVID-19 virus, coaxing our immune system into cranking out antibodies to attack it. And he says that script can be efficiently rewritten if necessary.
“So now we’re in the situation of having to tweak it by a few mutations here and there, and I expect that this could proceed quite rapidly,” said Pulendran.
Vaccine maker Moderna has already announced that it’s working on a new booster for its vaccine. It’s aimed at the so-called South African variation of the virus, which has some researchers concerned. Pfizer’s bio-tech partner in Germany says it could be able to adjust it’s RNA coding in as little as six weeks, if there’s a serious challenge.