There are four types of COVID-19 vaccines: here’s how they work

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The fight against COVID-19 has seen vaccine development move at record speed, with more than 170 different vaccines in trials. But how are they different from each other and how will they protect us against the disease?

There are more vaccine candidates simultaneously in the pipeline for COVID-19 than ever before for an infectious disease. All of them are trying to achieve the same thing – immunity to the virus, and some might also be able to stop transmission. They do so by stimulating an immune response to an antigen, a molecule found on the virus. In the case of COVID-19, the antigen is typically the characteristic spike protein found on the surface of the virus, which it normally uses to help it invade human cells.

COVID-19 vaccine types in development

THE FOUR MAIN TYPES OF COVID-19 VACCINE

There are four categories of vaccines in clinical trials: WHOLE VIRUSPROTEIN SUBUNITVIRAL VECTOR and NUCLEIC ACID (RNA AND DNA). Some of them try to smuggle the antigen into the body, others use the body’s own cells to make the viral antigen.

WHOLE VIRUS

Many conventional vaccines use whole viruses to trigger an immune response. There are two main approaches. Live attenuated vaccines use a weakened form of the virus that can still replicate without causing illness. Inactivated vaccines use viruses whose genetic material has been destroyed so they cannot replicate, but can still trigger an immune response. Both types use well-established technology and pathways for regulatory approval, but live attenuated ones may risk causing disease in people with weak immune systems and often require careful cold storage, making their use more challenging in low-resource countries. Inactivated virus vaccines can be given to people with compromised immune systems but might also need cold storage.

PROTEIN SUBUNIT

Subunit vaccines use pieces of the pathogen - often fragments of protein - to trigger an immune response. Doing so minimises the risk of side effects, but it also means the immune response may be weaker. This is why they often require adjuvants, to help boost the immune response. An example of an existing subunit vaccine is the hepatitis B vaccine.

NUCLEIC ACID

Nucleic acid vaccines use genetic material – either RNA or DNA – to provide cells with the instructions to make the antigen. In the case of COVID-19, this is usually the viral spike protein. Once this genetic material gets into human cells, it uses our cells' protein factories to make the antigen that will trigger an immune response. The advantages of such vaccines are that they are easy to make, and cheap. Since the antigen is produced inside our own cells and in large quantities, the immune reaction should be strong. A downside, however, is that so far, no DNA or RNA vaccines have been licensed for human use, which may cause more hurdles with regulatory approval. In addition, RNA vaccines need to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures, -70C or lower, which could prove challenging for countries that don’t have specialised cold storage equipment, particularly low- and middle-income countries. 

VIRAL VECTOR

Viral vector vaccines also work by giving cells genetic instructions to produce antigens. But they differ from nucleic acid vaccines in that they use a harmless virus, different from the one the vaccine is targeting, to deliver these instructions into the cell. One type of virus that has often been used as a vector is adenovirus, which causes the common cold. As with nucleic acid vaccines, our own cellular machinery is hijacked to produce the antigen from those instructions, in order to trigger an immune response. Viral vector vaccines can mimic natural viral infection and should therefore trigger a strong immune response. However, since there is a chance that many people may have already been exposed to the viruses being used as vectors, some may be immune to it, making the vaccine less effective.

Watch for symptoms

People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms of coronavirus may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

Fever or chills

Cough

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Fatigue

Muscle or body aches

Headache

New loss of taste or smell

Sore throat

Congestion or runny nose

Nausea or vomiting

Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms of coronavirus. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19.

Source: CDC

Other resources on coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Important Covid-19 Links

This Coronavirus pages are intended solely to inform our clients and online visitors about coronavirus/COvid-19. All facts are from reliable sources like WHO, CDC and respective Government Health Agencies. Readers can either read through the facts which we summarized in this page or go direct to source through the link listed at the bottom of each page.

References:

1. WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

2. CDC Centers for Disease and Prevention Control

3. Canada Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

4. Health.com

5. Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School

6. Google Covid-19

7. Wikipedia COVID-19 pandemic 

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Stay aware of the latest COVID-19 information by regularly checking updates from WHO and your national and local public health authorities.

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The mention of specific companies or of certain manufacturers’ products in publications listed in the database does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by NosePiercings.Com in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned. Errors and omissions excepted, the names of proprietary products are distinguished by initial capital letters.


By listing publications in this database and providing links to external sites does not mean that NosePiercings.Com endorses or recommends those publications or sites, or has verified the content contained within them. The database has been compiled without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. The responsibility for the interpretation and use of publications included in this database lies with the reader. In no event shall NosePiercings.Com be liable for damages arising from its use.

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