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How Do the Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Work? McGill Scientist Explains

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Both the vaccines from Pfizer (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and Moderna (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report are categorized as messenger RNA vaccines, and the technology behind this is relatively new, said Dr. Joe Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University.

“The idea behind this vaccine is tricking the body to thinking that it has been invaded by the virus without actually being invaded by the virus so that it can produce antibodies to the virus. The technology that is behind both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines is relatively new. These kind of vaccines didn’t exist before,” Schwarcz said.

Schwarcz noted that the results of the vaccine studies from Pfizer and Moderna are still preliminary, and tests on children still have to be done.

“We emphasize that this is preliminary because these studies have just been going on for three months and that is not a very long time. Usually it takes a minimum of five years to get a vaccine out into the market, so this is a relatively short period of time,” he said.

The testing sample sizes for both Pfizer and Moderna, 44,000 and 30,000, respectively, are sufficiently large for such studies, Schwarcz said.

“Of course, there are going to be stumbling blocks along the way. The first is that the Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, it means dry ice temperatures, and that is going to be quite an impediment to distribution, but that can be overcome,” he said. “The Moderna [vaccine] is somewhat better in that sense because it only requires minus 20 degrees and the freezers that pharmacists have can go down to that temperature.”

Creating enough dosage is also poses a challenge.

“When you’re talking about having to vaccinate billions of people globally, that’s a lot of vaccines to produce, and you have to remember that this is two-dose vaccine, so when you hear that a company is going to be able to produce, by January, 50 million doses, which is what Pfizer is saying, those 50 million doses will vaccinate only 25 million people,” he said.

Schwarcz expects rollout to commence by December or January on a relatively small scale, with priority given to frontline medical workers, followed by people with existing health conditions. Latest Videos From TheStreet and Jim Cramer:

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