AUSTIN (KXAN) — We’re learning more about exactly how the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine works from research scientists at the University of Texas at Austin who helped develop it.
“The way the Pfizer vaccine works, you are injected with a mixture of mRNA, and that mRNA gets taken up into your cells and produces the spike protein, which is the protein that covers the surface of the coronavirus,” explained UT Reseach Scientist Daniel Wrapp. “Your immune system recognizes that spike protein as foreign and raises antibodies against it. That way, when you come into contact with the real coronavirus, you are protected.”
Wrapp told KXAN the first shot is a “prime.” It gets your immune system ready, so when you get the second shot, your body can really ramp up antibody production to ensure long-term protection against COVID-19.
We still don’t know how long that protection will last. Wrapp also said it’s still important to mask and social distance after getting the vaccine.
He said the vaccine highlights the importance of funding basic research.
“A lot of this work was performed years before COVID ever emerged in the human population, so there wasn’t an immediate translational implication for our findings back then. But if we didn’t have funding from the federal government, we wouldn’t have been able to perform that science,” Wrapp said.