Utah (ABC4) – Coronavirus vaccine distribution is continuing throughout Utah. As more vaccines are administered, more questions arise about the new vaccine for the novel virus.

According to Utah’s COVID-19 vaccine information page, like all vaccines, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety before they were authorized for use in the United States.

Officials say “the mRNA technology is new, but not unknown.”

“The term mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid,” Jenny Johnson Public Information Officer for the Utah Department of Health tells ABC4.

“This is best described as instructions for how to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein,” Johnson shares.

What is mRNA and why is it used in a vaccine?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, mRNA vaccines take advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins in order to trigger an immune response and build immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists say they have been studying mRNA vaccines for more than 10 years.

“In contrast, most vaccines use weakened or inactivated versions or components of the disease-causing pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response to create antibodies,” as stated on the CDC’s website.

Because an mRNA vaccine doesn’t use a live virus, there is no risk of causing disease in the person getting vaccinated.

Many wonder if mRNA and DNA interact. According to Johnson, an mRNA vaccine is NOT able to change or modify your genetic makeup (called DNA),”

“The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where your DNA is kept. This means the mRNA does NOT affect or interact with your DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with your body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease,” Johnson adds.

An mRNA vaccine creates instructions for building certain proteins that are part of a virus. Johnosn tells ABC4, the human body’s cells read these instructions and begin to make the protein.

Once your body makes these proteins, they attach to the outside of other cells. According to Utah’s COVID-19 vaccine information page, your immune system recognizes the protein as a danger and sends t-cells to fight it off. “The t-cells now know how to defend against the protein in case it enters your body again in the future. If you’re infected with the actual virus, your t-cells recognize the protein and attack it right away before the virus has a chance to make you sick,” as later stated by Utah.gov.

Health officials say these new types of mRNA vaccines, like the COVID-19 vaccine, can be quickly developed and manufactured.

For continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccine, learn more.