Illustration: nobeastsofierce (Shutterstock) The first COVID vaccine to be rolled out in the U.S., the one from Pfizer and BioNTech, is an mRNA vaccine. The second one probably will be too: Moderna’s vaccine is up for consideration this week. We’ve never had an mRNA vaccine in common use before, so you’re not alone if you’re wondering what the hell this technology is, and whether it has something to do with DNA. To answer the most common questions: no, it doesn’t change your DNA. No, it’s not an unproven technology (it’s actually been in the works for decades ). And the CDC has a fact sheet here with the basics you need to know about the new technology. But here’s the very short version: the mRNA in the vaccine contains instructions to tell our body how to build a coronavirus spike protein. As soon as we do that, our immune system freaks out, as it’s supposed to, and creates antibodies to the spike protein. The mRNA is destroyed shortly after the injection, but the antibodies stick around. They can then recognize the real virus if we ever encounter it in the wild. Want the longer, more detailed version? Here we go. Our cells contain DNA and are continually making mRNA Let’s start with a quick refresher on what it means to have genetic material. The DNA that we have, as humans, is contained in (almost) every cell of our body. It includes instructions for everything a cell might have to […]