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Viral-Vector Vaccines

AstraZeneca (and Sputnik and J&J) vaccine’s biotechnology.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine hasn’t been authorized for emergency use in the United States yet (still waiting for trials to end) but has been authorized in the UK, Mexico, Argentina, and India.

This vaccine is considered a “viral-vector” vaccine. There are essentially three components to this biotechnology:

1. The instructions: The vaccine needs to tell what the body to do. This vaccine tells cells to make the COVID19 spike protein by using DNA. The spike proteins then resemble a natural infection, which jumpstarts the immune system for protection.

2. The carrier: Scientists insert the instructions into a carrier. The carrier is another weakened virus called an “adenovirus”. Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause colds or flu-like symptoms. The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus.

3. The pathway: Finally, scientists need to choose one of two potential pathways: 1. vaccine enters your cells and instructs them to make spike proteins 2. vaccine already has the spike protein on its surface and the vaccine cells slowly replicate. The AstraZeneca vaccine uses approach #1. It can enter cells, but it can’t replicate inside them.

This type of biotechnology has been in development for decades. However, until this past year, it’s never been approved before. (In July 2020, the FDA approved Johnson & Johnson’s Ebola viral-vector vaccine).

The fantastic thing about this biotechnology is that it uses DNA instead of mRNA. DNA is much more stable so it doesn’t have to be stored in expensive freezers and can be transferred very easily. It’s also very easy (and cheap) to make. Because of this, it’s going to be an absolute game changer in stopping the global pandemic. It will save billions of lives, especially those that are hard to reach and most vulnerable. AstraZeneca expects to produce up to two billion doses in 2021.

Love, YLE

For more than you ever wanted to know on this vaccine, I appreciated this article: https://www.nytimes.com/…/oxford-astrazeneca-covid-19…

Nature figure and article: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01221-y

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