Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), emerged in China in December 2019 and quickly spread around the globe, killing more than 4 million people and causing a severe economic crisis. This extraordinary situation prompted entities in government, industry, and academia to work together at unprecedented speed to develop safe and effective vaccines. Indeed, vaccines of multiple types have been generated in record time, and many have been evaluated in clinical trials. Of these, messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines have emerged as lead candidates due to their speed of development and high degree of safety and efficacy. To date, two mRNA vaccines have received approval for human use, providing proof of the feasibility of this next-generation vaccine modality. This review gives a detailed overview about the types of mRNA vaccines developed for SARS-CoV-2, discusses and compares preclinical and clinical data, gives a mechanistic overview about immune responses generated by mRNA vaccination, and speculates on the challenges and promising future of this emergent vaccine platform.


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