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What are mRNA vaccines and how do they work?

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An animated collage of photos of men and women of varying ages and cultural backgrounds appears on-screen.

Text on-screen: What are mRNA vaccines and how do they work?

Text on-screen: mRNA Vaccines: COVID-19 Vaccines Explained

A man in business attire appears on-screen.

Text on-screen: Dr. Guillaume Poliquin, Acting Vice President, National Microbiology Laboratory

Dr. Poliquin: mRNA vaccines are a new type of technology that has been brought to bear in the fight against COVID-19. It is based on about 20 years worth of research and is a new way to deliver instructions to our bodies to protect ourselves against COVID-19.

Text on-screen: How do they work?

Dr. Poliquin: The end goal of any vaccine is to provide our body with a memory of a particular protein that we want to be able to neutralize or get rid of if we're exposed to it in the future. There are a couple of different ways to give our body that memory response but it all depends on getting a protein to interact with our immune system. mRNA vaccines represent a new way of delivering that protein by giving rather than the material itself, giving our cells the instructions necessary to make that protein. 

Text on-screen: What happens to the mRNA?

Dr. Poliquin: After the mRNA has done its job, after a few days, the mRNA naturally is degraded by the body and it completely disappears.

Text on-screen: mRNA vaccines cannot alter or change our DNA. Why not?

Dr. Poliquin: mRNA vaccines do ultimately enter the cell. That's where they do their work and they are translated. But it's important to remember that our DNA is actually contained even further inside of the cell, inside of the nucleus. mRNA vaccines never get into the nucleus. They never interact with our DNA, and they never have an opportunity to change our DNA.

Text on-screen: Got questions?

Three speech bubbles with questions appear on the screen.

Text on-screen: Are the vaccines safe? Are side effects common? Are the vaccines effective?

Text on-screen: Good. We've got answers. Canada.ca/covid-vaccine

The Canada wordmark with waving flag appears.

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