The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
Vaccines have been the success story of the COVID-19 pandemic, with three already approved for use in the UK, and promising late-stage trial results for a further two vaccines backed by the UK government.
This feature illustrates how each type of vaccine works, and brings together key data for pharmacists on the vaccines currently available, as well as those in the pipeline. It will be updated regularly to include the latest information.
Although data on vaccine efficacy are included, direct comparisons between vaccines are not possible owing to the trials using different endpoints and taking place at different times — when there were differing case rates and circulating variants.
mRNA vaccines are made using a new technology, which — in the case of COVID-19 — uses a nanoparticle to deliver the genetic instructions for human cells to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, priming the immune system to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body (see Figure).