Vaccines are one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of science. And with the covid vaccines rolling out in record numbers, interest in the topic of vaccines is higher than ever.
The invention of the vaccine is generally credited to Edward Jenner, who realized that women who worked with cows and got cowpox seemed to be immune from smallpox. After some testing he proved this was the case, in essence creating the world’s first vaccine.
A vaccine works by training the body to recognize the disease without actually giving it the disease. Once the body learns to recognize it, the immune response can be mobilized much more quickly, preventing the virus from taking hold. It’s like when police spread around a picture of a criminal suspect, so everybody knows to look out for them. Without this the body doesn’t know it’s a threat until it starts wrecking stuff.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which add an extra step to the process. Instead of injecting a dead virus or part of the virus, this vaccine injects instructions on how to build a part of the virus (the m stands for “messenger”), and simply has the person’s cells the vaccine parts for the immune system to recognize.