Cornell PhD Candidate Explains How Coronavirus mRNA Vaccines Work

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Rob Swanda, a PhD candidate in biochemistry at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, posted a video that he says explains how coronavirus vaccines such as those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna work.

Swanda begins by describing how human genetic information is carried through DNA and RNA, explaining that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 focus on mRNA, or messenger RNA. According to Swanda, SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) has 29 proteins, including one on the outer membrane called the “spike protein,” which enables the infection of a healthy cell.

“What these companies did is they looked at the entire genetic makeup of SARS-CoV-2 and found the single mRNA that encodes for the instructions to make the spike protein,” says Swanda. “They’ve isolated out this mRNA that can now be injected into us in the form of a vaccine to make one of these 29 proteins, thus not giving us an actual corona virus.”

A New York Times article on how the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine works tallies with Swanda’s overview. Credit: Rob Swanda via Storyful