mRNA Vaccine: A Brief History on Vaccines and Immunizations

mRNA Vaccine: A Brief History on Vaccines and Immunizations 

The practice of immunity achievement and vaccinations dates as far back as 200 BCE, while it is difficult to pinpoint an exact time, these practices have been around for centuries. In the 1500s there are accounts from China and India of children being inoculated by grinding smallpox scabs and blowing it up into the nostril or scratching matter from a smallpox sore into the skin; other methods included Buddhist monks ingesting snakebite venom to induce immunity

Of course, science has greatly evolved from sniffing smallpox scabs and swallowing snake venom but these small beginnings are what hold the foundation of vaccine theories and practices of today. Edward Jenner became to be considered the pioneer for vaccinology in the West in 1796 when he inoculated a 13-year-old boy with the Cowpox virus (vaccinia virus) and proved that immunity was achievable this way. Only 2 years later was the first smallpox vaccine created, this then led to its global eradication by 1979. 

Louis Pasteur created many experiments which were the precursor to the live attenuated cholera vaccine (which was developed by him as the first laboratory developed vaccine), the inactivated anthrax vaccine, the vaccine for the plague, and the Bacillus-Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination—the method which is used for the tuberculosis vaccine still used today, and countless others. 

In 1923, Alexander Glenny perfected the method used to inactivate the tetanus toxin by using formaldehyde; this method was then used to create the vaccine against diphtheria in 1926. The pertussis vaccine marked history by being the first whole cell vaccine licensed for use in the US in 1948, before this method was refined in the mid 1900 to an acellular version that created fewer adverse reactions.

Polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines were developed and manufactured until the late 1900s, with the measles being the next possible target for global eradication through vaccination. 

Not without strife, loss, and resistance from anti-vaccination communities, vaccinations and immunizations have saved countless lives and almost completely eradicated entire illnesses. The dense history of vaccines has led up to the incredibly advanced systems we have today which incorporate molecular genetics, microbiology, and genomics to create safer and more effective vaccines like the viral vector vaccine used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Now, similarly, we see a similar pattern with the unknowns surrounding the mRNA vaccine used with Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine, although the science is only relatively new in relation to vaccine history, it is technology that has been around for more than a decade, but it shared the same hesitance that early vaccination methods had—the scientist who suggested this type of vaccine, Katalin Karikó,was widely invalidated by the government, corporations, and even her colleagues. 

Through her tireless work and perseverance and extremely intensive preliminary data from past experiments, the companies responsible for both of the mRNA vaccines on the market, BioNTech and Modena, they have been able to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.