In news– Recently, India’s first home-grown mRNA Covid-19 vaccine ‘GEMCOVAC-19’, has got a‘restricted emergency use’ nod for the 18-and-above age group.
What is GEMCOVAC-19?
- It is India’s first indigenously developed mRNA Covid vaccine and only third mRNA vaccine to be approved for Covid-19 in the world after Pfizer and Moderna.
- It was developed at Pune’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals.
- Gemcovac’s 43 lakh doses have already been cleared by the Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh.
- It is a two-dose vaccine to be administered intramuscularly 28 days apart.
- As mRNA vaccines are required to be kept at sub-zero temperatures, it was a mammoth task for Gennova scientists to develop a thermostable mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.
- The new vaccine can now be stored at the temperature of a standard medical refrigerator.
How does mRNA vaccine work?
- As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, an mRNA vaccine candidate was the first to enter human trials globally.
- Unlike vaccines that put a weakened or inactivated virus in ones body to activate an immune response, the two Covid-19 vaccines named Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna used messenger RNA or mRNA to deliver a message to your immune system.
- Basically, the technology uses genetically engineered mRNA to instruct cells to make the S-protein found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus.
- According to scientists, after vaccination, the muscle cells begin making S-protein pieces and displaying them on cell surfaces. This causes the body to create antibodies.
- But these vaccines have to be stored at sub-zero temperatures as mRNA is fragile and breaks down easily.
- Unlike in the West, where the vaccine has to be stored at sub-zero temperatures, the challenge in India was to be able to store the vaccine between 2-8 degree Celsius.
- GEMCOVAC-19 can now be stored at the temperature of a standard medical refrigerator.
- The conversion from liquid to powder form of the vaccine takes place via Lyophilisation; this is freeze-drying, a process where the water is removed from the product after it is frozen and placed under a vacuum allowing the ice to change directly from solid to vapor without passing through a liquid phase.
Further reading: https://journalsofindia.com/mrna-vaccine/