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Mass Vaccination Can Stop Mutations – Pfizer Vaccine Creator Karikó

Tamás Vaski 2021.05.09.

Katalin Karikó, the Hungarian biochemist who was fundamental in the creation of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, is currently in Hungary until May 27. While her schedule and work responsibilities have kept her very busy, since she has arrived she has spoken at the Hungarian Academy of Science (MTA), given interviews to Hungarian media, and met with the rector of Semmelweis University, Béla Merkely.

At her speech for the 194th conference of the Hungarian Academy of Science (MTA), Katalin Karikó spoke about her career path, which started at the University of Szeged, and gave details on the scientific know-how of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology. It was Karikó’s decades of hard work which led to this technology becoming the foundation for Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Creator Presents at Academy of Science
Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Creator Presents at Academy of Science

Katalin Karikó, the famous Hungarian biochemist who was crucial in the creation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, held a presentation at the 194th conference of the Hungarian Academy of Science (MTA) on Monday. Her speech mostly focused on her scientific works, so for better understanding we’ve complemented that with personal details of her career, with the […]Continue reading

After her presentation, Karikó spoke to Telex and InfóRádió about a number of topics regarding vaccines, the pandemic, and mRNA technology in general.

How Long Does Immunity Last?

A notable topic as of late is the length of time that coronavirus vaccines provide immunity for. Karikó emphasized that while it is very difficult to determine this at the moment, it is estimated that the vaccine provides immunity for at least six months, if not more.

But there would be no point to me saying that we are immune for 5 years, how would I know? That much time has not elapsed.”

Karikó told InfóRádió that a good measure of how long immunity lasts is to check whether the people who were vaccinated caught the virus or not, and if so, how long after their vaccination. Otherwise time is the determining factor.

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Word has spread about a 12-month study being planned to test the efficacy of all vaccines currently authorized in Hungary. Despite the magnitude of the nation-wide experiment, the government has been relatively silent regarding its details. The Pécs University Clinical Center shared a publication inviting people to take part in a voluntary 12-month antibody-study of […]Continue reading

The reduction of antibodies is a natural occurrence for all vaccines, Karikó said, but this does not necessarily mean that immunity suddenly disappears. The Hungarian scientist brought up cell immunity, where certain cells learn how to defend against the virus, and even with a lower number of antibodies, they are able to combat the coronavirus long after inoculation if necessary.

Defeating the Coronavirus

Regarding the danger of Covid variants, Karikó said that these mutations may often work against the virus. Current tests show that double mutations can, in some cases, lower the virus’ capabilities, or simply make it similar to the original Wuhan strain.

Health Professionals: All of Hungary's Vaccines Are Effective!
Health Professionals: All of Hungary's Vaccines Are Effective!

Professors, virologists, and virus researchers around Hungary continue to emphasize it; all vaccines authorized in Hungary are effective. Chief infectologist of the South Pest Hospital Centre, virologist János Szlávik sat down with Hungary Today at the beginning of the year to discuss vaccination and the race against the coronavirus. Chief Infectologist: Herd Immunity Needed Szlávik […]Continue reading

Herd immunity is what would truly be ideal, Karikó said. While she did not want to speculate on when countries would reach this level of immunity, she emphasized that the more people who have antibodies and cell immunity, the fewer chances the virus has to mutate. The goal, she said, is to keep the number of antibodies high in order to make the virus completely disappear.

The Safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

Currently only adults are being vaccinated against the coronavirus, since the safety of vaccines is not yet confirmed on children. While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe to use on teenagers between the age of 16-18, Karikó said that the company is currently testing vaccination for children between 11 and 15, as well as those under 11. So far, tests are looking promising.

Vaccination of 16-18 Year Olds to Begin in Hungary
Vaccination of 16-18 Year Olds to Begin in Hungary

After PM Viktor Orbán talked about the possibility of starting the vaccination of teenagers between 16-18 years old last week, the youngsters’ inoculation can soon commence, however, only with the Pfizer vaccine.  Viktor Orbán has ordered enough Pfizer vaccines for 16-18 year old teens, and they will be informed about the vaccination schedule in a […]Continue reading

One of the noticeable benefits to mRNA vaccines, Karikó said, is that they are much easier and quicker to produce. While other vaccines require an inactivated version of the coronavirus or a modified adenovirus, Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine can be put together in a laboratory without the need for foreign cells or bacteria.

Politics in Science and the Pandemic

Telex asked Karikó about the controversial vaccine table that was published by the government, to which she commented that based on the table, anyone who registered for a Pfizer vaccination was “essentially signing their death wish.”

Experts Debunk Hungary's 'Vaccine Efficacy' Table, Gov't Defends It
Experts Debunk Hungary's 'Vaccine Efficacy' Table, Gov't Defends It

The flaws of the vaccine efficacy table shared by the government are now being exposed by experts around Hungary. Government officials have decided, despite the controversy, that they will stand by the alleged validity of their dataset. The table’s initial statement revolved around proving the government’s point that the Chinese and Russian vaccines are better […]Continue reading

All joking aside, the biochemist said that she regretted reacting to the government table, a response which she had written while she was half asleep.

A colleague of mine once said: do not get tied up in any kind of political issue, do not be a part of it, because they will pull you in, and no matter what you say, they will critique it.”

Karikó brought up that polarization is a big issue around the world, as it is in Hungary, between the government and the opposition. She wishes that some level of civil dialogue would be achieved, since a reluctance to consider both sides of an argument can result in a state of tunnel-vision, which does not help anyone.

The Future of mRNA Technology

Karikó is very optimistic about the future of the technology which she has worked on for decades. As it is a new technology, most of its use has been made noticeable on the coronavirus, but once the epidemic dies down, she said, Pfizer-BioNTech has plans to help combat other autoimmune illnesses, possibly even cancer.

Karikó said that animal trials indicate that mRNA could be effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and arthritis. It could also, by providing cell immunity, help the body fight cancer.

Hungarian Vaccine Researcher Katalin Karikó Potential Candidate for Nobel Prize
Hungarian Vaccine Researcher Katalin Karikó Potential Candidate for Nobel Prize

As we enter what is hopefully the last stage in humanity’s battle with the Covid-19 virus, various vaccines are entering the distribution phase around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been vaccinated, predominantly healthcare workers, the elderly, as well as other essential personnel. As with almost all things, there is something “Hungarian” […]Continue reading

Karikó emphasized that mRNA technology is unique since it is adaptable to the individual. mRNA injected in the body can adapt to the conditions or cell mutations of an individual condition. One development that would be especially important for mRNA technology would be to ensure that the molecule only enters specific cells.

These are the most important developments for the future, since we already know how to make mRNA, and how to engineer it to create multiple proteins. What we do not know yet is how to achieve the point where it would only enter specific cells while avoiding others.”

Meeting With Semmelweis Rector

Aside from her interviews, the BioNTech vice president took some time to visit Béla Merkely, the rector of Budapest’s Semmelweis University.

According to Merkely’s Facebook post, they first showed Karikó the university’s clinic while discussing vaccines, messenger RNA, and mRNA’s future therapeutic opportunities. Thanks to Karikó’s experience in cardiology, the two are planning mutual scientific cooperation.

Mai napon meglátogatott minket Karikó Katalin a Semmelweis Egyetem Városmajori Klinikáján.
Az mRNS-alapú vakcinák…

Közzétette: Dr. Merkely Béla – 2021. május 5., szerda

After viewing Merkely complete a heart operation and attending a clinical epidemic meeting of four universities, Karikó received a silver medal from the rector. The medal, representing Ignác Semmelweis’ two hundredth birthday, was given to Karikó for her exceptional work in the fight against the coronavirus.

Daughter of Hungarian Coronavirus Vaccine Scientist is US Olympic Gold Medalist
Daughter of Hungarian Coronavirus Vaccine Scientist is US Olympic Gold Medalist

In an interview with sports daily Nemzeti Sport, Hungarian-American Olympic gold medalist Zsuzsanna Francia, daughter of BioNTech biochemist Katalin Karikó, discussed her successful sporting career and her mother’s involvement in the creation of the coronavirus vaccine. Zsuzsanna Francia is a two-time olympic gold medalist in rowing. She grew up in Pennsylvania but speaks perfect Hungarian […]Continue reading

Featured photo by University of Szeged