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Types of Covid-19 Vaccines

1) Whole Virus Vaccine

  • Vaccines that belong in this category: Sinopharm and Sinovac covid-19 vaccines
  • Number of doses required per person: 2 doses, administered intramuscularly
  • Description: The whole virus vaccine uses a weakened or inactivated form of the pathogen that causes COVID-19 to trigger protective immunity against it. 

Sinopharm and Sinovac both use inactivated pathogens, which cannot infect or replicate cells but can trigger an immune response.

  • Benefits: The advantages of an inactivated whole virus vaccine include its well-established technology, suitability for persons with weakened immune systems, and ease of manufacture.
  • Challenges: Booster injections may be required 

2) RNA or mRNA Vaccine

    • Vaccines that belong in this category: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna
  • Number of doses required per person: 2 doses, administered intramuscularly 
  • Description: The COVID-19 RNA vaccine is made up of lab-produced mRNA molecules that code for SARS-CoV-2 virus proteins, specifically the virus’ spike protein.

When mRNA is injected into the body, it instructs cells to generate antigens, such as the spike protein, which are then recognized by immune cells, causing a reaction from the body’s lymphocytes.

Killer T-cells destroy infected cells, whereas B-cells and helper T-cells stimulate to produce antibodies. In the future, everybody who is exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus will have an immune system that recognizes it and fights the infection.

As there is no other licensed or authorized vaccine that utilizes this sort of technology, the Messenger RNA (mRNA) version might be mistaken for something brand new in healthcare. However, a variety of mRNA vaccines for illnesses and diseases such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), influenza, rabies, and the Zika virus have been researched in the past.

Since these vaccines can be developed in a lab using readily available materials, the process may be standardized and scaled up, allowing for faster vaccine production than traditional methods.

  • Benefits: Advantages include good safety (because no live components are present, there is no risk of the vaccine causing disease), reliability, and the fact that it is relatively simple to manufacture.

Challenges: Unexpected effects (such as an unintended immunological response), ensuring effective delivery into the body (because free RNA in the body is quickly broken down), storage issues, and the fact that this type of vaccine has never been licensed for humans.

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3) Vaccine with a Non-Replicating Viral Vector

    • Vaccines that belong in this category: Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V (by Gamaleya Research Institute)
  • Number of doses required per person: 2 doses, administered intramuscularly 
  • Other vaccines that utilizes this type of technology is Ebola vaccine
  • Description: To deliver the antigen’s genetic code, this vaccine uses a safe, modified form of the virus known as “the vector.” In a COVID-19 vaccine, the spike proteins on the coronavirus’s surface act as the “vector.”

When the body’s cells are “infected or injected with this” then the cells are instructed to generate a massive amount of antigens, which in turn triggers an immune response.

  • Benefits: Viral vector-based immunization is yet another well-established technology that can trigger a strong immunological response, since it comprises of both B and T cells.
  • Challenges: Exposure to the viral vector previously might reduce efficiency of action of these vaccines, and these vaccines are relatively complex to manufacture when compare to others. 


4) Protein Subunit

  • Vaccines that belong in this category: Novavax
  • Number of doses required per person: 2 doses, administered intramuscularly 
  • Other vaccines that utilizes this type of technology are Hepatitis B, meningococcal, pneumococcal and shingles vaccines
  • Description: The protein subunit vaccine contains purified “pieces” of a virus rather than the whole virus to trigger an immune response. It is thought that by restricting the immune system to the introduction of a whole virus, the risk of side effects is minimized.

Benefits: The protein subunit vaccination is also a well-established technology that is beneficial for people with compromised immune systems.


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