Why Purified Water Matters for COVID-19 Vaccines
The most important component in COVID-19 vaccines may not be messenger RNA (mRNA) but water. Ultra purified water, carefully filtered and conditioned to exceptionally high standards, is a vital component of vaccines that is saving millions of lives.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines are an exceptional kind of technology. There are several different types, each of which interacts with the human body slightly differently. The two most common are live-attenuated vaccines, which use a weakened version of a virus, and inactivated vaccines, which use a “dead” version. The two leading COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, take a completely new approach.
Both of these vaccines are mRNA vaccines, meaning they use the protein production skills of mRNA to teach the body how to fight off a pathogen. Scientists isolated one spike from the COVID-19 molecule, the part that allows it to interact with cells, and isolated within it the mRNA that acts as the coronavirus’s “instructions.” This mRNA was then replicated and put into the vaccines.
When the vaccine enters the body, the fake coronavirus spike integrates into human cells. Usually, mRNA acts as instructions for creating proteins, which human cells are constantly producing. mRNA vaccines use this pre existing “infrastructure” to make copies of inert coronavirus proteins instead. The human body then recognizes those coronavirus proteins as foreign entities and begins fighting them. This is close enough to real COVID-19 molecules for the body to know what to do in the future.
This process is also what allowed both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to be developed so quickly. Scientists only needed to replicate a bit of mRNA within the coronavirus molecule rather than replicating the entire pathogen and altering it to make it weak or inert. mRNA is also the cause for these two vaccines’ freezing temperature requirements. Since mRNA breaks down quickly, it must be kept frozen to survive long enough to be usable.
The Role of Water in Vaccines
Sterile or ultrapure water is the most common diluent used in vaccines. It goes through a series of precise, intensive filtration processes that strip it down to only one hydrogen atom and two oxygen atoms per molecule. It is entirely free of any impurities, such as minerals and salts.
Ironically, ultrapure water is not safe for humans to consume, at least not long term. The body needs the nutritional benefits of impure water. H2O likes to bond with other molecules, as well, so drinking ultrapure water would lead to the pure H2O molecules draining away vitamins and minerals, which could be fatal.
However, ultrapure water is essential when it comes to pharmaceuticals. In fact, millions of gallons of it need to be produced every day to keep up with current demand.
The same impurities that are good for drinking are dangerous when assembling something like a vaccine. Diluents are used to turn freeze-dried doses back into liquid to be injected into patients. Sterile water is the most commonly used diluent, and if it’s not responsibly purified, vaccines would not be possible. Any impurities could render them completely ineffective, even if the freeze-dried inoculation itself was in pristine condition.
Demand for COVID-19 Vaccines
As of October 2021, only 48% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. While most of the U.S., Canada, Europe and China are fully vaccinated, a large majority of the world’s nations struggle to get even 50% of citizens covered. These statistics prove that even if the pandemic may seem to be winding down in America, the rest of the world is still in dire need of doses, which will require a continued commitment from water purification companies.