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Get the Facts on Our COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates

07/08/20
 
As the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, our scientists and experts are working hard to develop a vaccine.

 

We’re working in collaboration with German biotech company BioNTech on a COVID-19 development programme, focusing on mRNA vaccine technology.1 Learn more about the science of mRNA vaccines below:

 

What is a vaccine?

Vaccines are designed to help prevent disease. A vaccine stimulates your immune system to respond and produce antibodies – like it would if you were exposed to the virus. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease, without having to get the disease first.2

 

What is the difference between a vaccine and a medicine?

Vaccines are designed to help prevent disease,2 while medicines help to manage or cure a disease or condition.

 

How is the safety of a vaccine tested?

Both medicines and vaccines undergo extensive safety and quality testing prior to receiving a licence and being made available to patients. Once licensed, regulatory authorities routinely monitor its use and investigate any potential safety concerns.3

 

How long does a vaccination last?

The immunity provided by a vaccine varies. For some vaccines, like polio vaccines, immunity can last for many years,4 while for other vaccines, like for influenza, vaccines are needed annually.5

 

How could a vaccine for COVID-19 work? 

Researchers and scientists globally are working to develop a potential vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Different groups are using various methods, or technologies, to design possible COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech are focusing on a technology called mRNA.1

Vaccines are intended to help prevent disease by stimulating an immune system to produce antibodies against a specific foreign body so that, after getting vaccinated, a person develops immunity to a specific infection.2

 

What is the difference between a conventional vaccine and an mRNA vaccine?

mRNA vaccines potentially offer greater flexibility and quicker development timelines than traditional vaccines. Unlike some traditional vaccines, they do not use an inactivated virus, but rather a portion of the viral sequence encoding for one or more viral antigens.6,7

 

How exactly do mRNA vaccines work? 

mRNA – or messenger RNA – is a molecule, composed of nucleotides linked in a unique order to provide genetic information for the cells to produce the proteins or antigens encoded by the mRNA. Once mRNA in a vaccine is inside of the body’s cells, the cells use their genetic machinery to translate the genetic information and produce the antigens encoded by the mRNA vaccine. The antigens are then displayed on the cell surface, where they are recognised by the immune system which generates a response, including the production of antibodies against the antigen.6

 

How long does it take to develop a vaccine? 

The development of a novel vaccine is a complex and lengthy process that generally takes 10 to 15 years.8 Given the current global scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working at an unprecedented speed to develop a potential vaccine in a responsible way, collaborating closely with regulatory and health authorities around the world – compressing stages that have taken years into months, and those that have taken months into weeks.  

 

If all goes well, when will a vaccine be available?

Availability of a vaccine is subject to the success of the development programme and regulatory approval.

 

Who will be able to get the vaccine? Is it appropriate for everyone? 

Assuming the mRNA vaccine development programme is successful, and subject to regulatory approval, we will collaborate closely with health authorities around the world to provide the vaccine to areas in greatest need.

 

References

  1. Pfizer press release. Available at: https://www.pfizer.co.uk/pfizer-and-biontech-co-develop-potential-covid-.... [Last accessed July 2020]
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines: the basics. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/vpd-vac-basics.html. [Last accessed July 2020]
  3. NHS. Medicines Information. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/medicines-information/. [Last accessed July 2020]
  4. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Polio Vaccine Effectiveness and Duration of Protection. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/polio/hcp/effectiveness-duration-protec.... [Last accessed July 2020]
  5. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccines. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm/. [Last accessed July 2020]
  6. PHG Foundation. RNA vaccines: an introduction. Available at: https://www.phgfoundation.org/briefing/rna-vaccines/. [Last accessed July 2020]
  7. Hogan, M.J. et al. mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5906799/. [Last accessed July 2020]
  8. IFPMA. The complex journey of a vaccine. Available at: https://www.ifpma.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/IFPMA-ComplexJourney-20.... [Last accessed July 2020]

 

Related articles:

 

Find out more about Pfizer's global efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech announce that the first participants have been dosed in the U.S. in the clinical trial for the BNT162 vaccine programme to prevent COVID-19.

 

Pfizer is collaborating with German biotech company BioNTech to co-develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine, focusing on a technology called an mRNA vaccine.

PP-VAC-GBR-1542 / July 2020