India’s mRNA Covid vaccine

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  • THE COUNTRY’S first homegrown mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, GEMCOVAC-19, developed at Pune’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, has got restricted emergency use’ approval for the 18-and-above age group.
  • How mRNA vaccines work?
                  Most traditional vaccines put a weakened or inactivated virus in the body to generate an immune response. An mRNA vaccine instructs the body itself to create a part of the virus.

                 The Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna both use mRNA (mes senger RNA) to deliver a message to the immune system. Genetically engineered mRNA instructs cells to make the spike protein found on the surface of Covid-19 virus. The expectation is that the immune system will mount a response against the spike protein, and that, if and when when an actual infection happens, the immune cells will recognise the spike protein and act against it.
                  One of the advantages of an mRNA vaccine is that it requires a smaller dose than a traditional vaccine, given that the required amount of antigen will be created in the body itself.

  • What’s special?
                  mRNA is fragile and breaks down easily, which is why vaccines based on this platform need to be stored at extremely low temperatures to prevent a breakdown.
                  The vaccine is stored in powder form. The conversion from liquid to powder form takes place by a process called lyophilisation or freeze drying, which involves freezing the product and subjecting it to vacuum to remove the water (converted from its ice state to water vapour state by a process called sublimation).


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