Inovio’s Electrical Device Zaps a COVID-19 Vaccine Into the Body

Can a handheld gadget usher in a new era of vaccines?

13 min read
Spencer Lowell

It took a global pandemic to accomplish one of the most significant advances in the history of vaccinology: widespread, commercial deployment of vaccines derived from nucleic acids. As of this writing, hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. And most of those shots have been the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna offerings, which are both of a type known as an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine.

Conceived decades ago but released to the public for the first time during the pandemic, mRNA vaccines so far are living up to their promise. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proven to be about 95 percent effective against the novel coronavirus. In addition, this kind of vaccine can be tweaked with relative ease to target new variants of a virus, and its production does not rely on items that can be difficult to produce quickly in enormous quantities. And yet, a couple of drawbacks of mRNA vaccines have also been widely noted over the past six months: They depend on deep-freeze supply chains and storage, and they can produce significant side effects such as fever, chills, and muscle aches.

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