The COVID-19 vaccine is a new type of vaccine called an mRNA vaccine and has stirred a lot of conversation about its effectiveness and safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “to trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein — or even just a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”

Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being administered in the U.S. right now, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to join them. Darin Edwards ’97 ’10MS ’11PhD applied his degrees in biology, molecular biology and biomedical sciences to lead the research and development of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine.

Although the state of Florida’s eligibility requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine are limited to certain age and profession demographics, that may be changing soon after President Joe Biden announced March 2 that he expects that the United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccines for every adult by the end of May.

With widespread accessibility to the vaccine on the horizon, two medical professors with expertise in infectious diseases and pathology break down the science behind the vaccine and answer common questions about its safety, effectiveness and who should be getting it.

Professor of Clinical Sciences Kenneth Alexander is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics/Infectious Diseases and earned his medical degree in 1989 from the University of Washington. In addition to his role at UCF, he is chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Nemours Children’s Hospital.

Professor of Pathology Jane Gibson is chair of the department of clinical sciences. She is board certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics and earned her Ph.D. pathology/laboratory medicine from the University of Florida College of Medicine.

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