mRNA Vaccine against COVID-19- Will it be safe and effective?


Prof. (Dr) Rajendra Prasad
Dean Faculty of Science Engineering and Technology
Director, Amity Institute of Integrative Sciences and Health
Director, Amity Institute of Biotechnology

Dr. Amit Pandey
Assistant Professor
Amity Institute of Biotechnology

The unprecedented spread of COVID-19 across the globe has caught the world totally unprepared. The ending year 2020 saw scrambling of researchers to find methods to cope up with the prevailing pandemic. Scientists are racing to develop and deploy safe and effective vaccines. Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences to recognize and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. If the body is exposed to those disease-causing germs later, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness. In past vaccinations have proven to be a boon against infectious disease such as polio and measles and use the live or heat killed virus. But these methods of vaccine development have not been successful in recent emerging viral diseases such as Zika, Ebola. Hence based on past success in handling such situations, developing vaccine against COVID-19 became the right choice. Therefore, the development of the COVID-19 vaccine was the right option based on previous experience in coping with such circumstances. Among various methods of making an effective vaccine, the genetic material of viruses which are either DNA or RNA targeting nucleic acids have emerged as a promising method. Currently two types of RNA are being used as vaccines; one is non replicating mRNA and another one derived from virus as self-amplifying RNA. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is formed from DNA by the process known as transcription and is the intermediate step between translation of DNA to protein by ribosomes.Scientist have explored the use of mRNA as vaccine as it has many advantages such as it is non-infectious and there is very lessor no chance of mutation. Although the half -life of mRNA is very less but it can be stabilized using various modifications and delivery methods.

Currently all the researchers and pharma companies are involved in making vaccines and as a result many promising vaccines are in the horizon which are undergoing phased clinical trials. The vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech, BNT162b2 has been proven to be effective against COVID-19 and currently UK, USA and other countries have started their vaccination programme. It is a lipid nanoparticle–formulated, nucleoside-modified RNA vaccine that encodes a prefusion stabilized, membrane-anchored SARS-CoV-2 full-length spike protein. The other mRNA-based vaccine mRNA-1273 has been developed by Moderna, a USA based company and the vaccine has shown efficacy of 94.5% in phase 3 trial. In India Gennova Biopharmaceutical’s, a Pune based pharma company in collaboration with HDT Biotech Corporation, Seattle, USA has developed an mRNA-based vaccine designated as HGCO19 which contains a short, synthetic version of mRNA encoding the spike protein (antigen) of the novel coronavirus and is associated with the ‘lipid inorganic nanoparticle (LION) and acts as mRNA vaccine delivery system. HGCO19 which is showing great immunogenicity has been cleared by the government for phase 1 clinical trials.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) there are currently more than 50 COVID-19 vaccine candidates in trials. WHO is working in collaboration with scientists, business, and global health organizations through the ACT Accelerator to speed up the pandemic response. When a safe and effective vaccine is found, WHO through COVAX will facilitate the equitable access and distribution of these vaccines to protect people in all countries. People most at risk will be prioritized. While we work towards rolling out a safe and effective vaccine fairly, we must continue the essential public health actions to suppress transmission and reduce mortality.The health ministry of Government of India has recently informed the nation that the vaccination in India might start in January 2021. Some peoples are also against this vaccination and have also started anti-vaccine groups in social media platform. This is because a lot or a great deal of false or misleading” information about COVID-19 on social media platform has been put.

As the chapter closes on the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, drugmakers are hard at work bolstering the defences mounted in 2020—and they're looking at new formulations and delivery methods to bring vaccines and therapies to more people around the world. Can follow-up shots ease the harsh cold chain requirements for mRNA vaccines? Could supplies be extended with a vaccine that works at one dose rather than two? And could COVID-19 meds be improved by targeting the site where the disease hits hardest? These are just a few of the questions driving drugmakers and research institutions as they toil away on the next generation of coronavirus meds and vaccines. Let us hope that the coming year 2021 will bring hope, happiness good health and yes, the most important of all the safe Vaccine!

Amity Institute of Biotechnology