A Different Kind of Vaccine

A local company in New Zealand, The Covid-19 Vaccine Corporation (CVC), is working to develop a different kind of vaccine against Covid-19.

There are two things that make CVC’s planned vaccine different from other vaccines.

The first point of difference relates to how the vaccine is produced. It uses biobead technology. Biobeads are produced by bacteria that have been exposed to tiny pieces of the Covid-19 virus. Because bacteria can reproduce quickly, there is hope that this will be an efficient way to produce a vaccine.

To understand the second point of difference, we need to understand antigens. An antigen is a thing that your body notices as a sign of disease. The Covid-19 vaccines we use now focus on a spike on the Covid-19 virus. You have probably seen pictures of the virus, and how it looks like a spiky ball. The vaccines we use today teach the body that these spikes are antigens, and that anything with those spikes, should be attacked by antibodies. Antibodies are produced by B-cells in our blood, so this kind of vaccine is known as a B-cell vaccine.

a picture of a spiky coronavirus, curtesy of wikimedia

But what if the spikes on the Covid-19 virus change? It could be that with new variants of the virus, the vaccines will not work anymore.

This is why CVC have decided to focus on a different antigen: diseased cells in the body, which are destroyed by T-cells. T-cells are blood cells that destroy diseased cells in the body.

CVC hopes that this form of vaccine will safeguard against the virus changing so much that current B-cell vaccines become less effective. They hope that the vaccine will be ready in a few years, and that it can be used in addition to existing B-cell vaccines.


point of difference: a feature that is different

relate to: be connected with; be about

reproduce: breed or have babies

efficient: if work is done quickly and cheaply enough to be worth doing, it is efficient

focus on: pay attention to, notice

variant: a version; something that is similar but not the same

cell: the smallest part of a living thing; it can be alive or dead

current: existing now; the latest

effective: good at doing a job; functional

in addition to: extra

existing: being real now

antibody: a blood cell that attacks foreign antigens

virus: a tiny creature that can only reproduce inside the cells of another creature

bacteria: a tiny creature that has only one cell

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