In 2020, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) launched the Vaccine Education Center with a classroom-based program known as the Vaccine Makers Project (VMP). In partnership with CHOP, VMP and Medical History Pictures, XVIVO has created a series of animations that bring to life the detailed processes of how the human immune system fights diseases at both the cellular and molecular levels with the help of vaccinations. In response to ever-evolving conditions within the current pandemic, we have just completed the first of two new videos that explain specifically how COVID-19 vaccines work to prevent the disease.

There are two types of vaccines currently being used for protection against COVID-19. The ones by Pfizer and Moderna are both known as mRNA vaccines, while the Johnson and Johnson version is a viral vector vaccine. In this first detailed animation, we’ve recreated the process by which COVID-19 mRNA vaccines actually train our cells to neutralize the virus.

Like many viruses, coronavirus uses a protein on its surface to attach to and enter our cells.

Antibodies that fit onto this protein can block the virus from attaching. Coronavirus mRNA vaccines teach our immune system to make these antibodies.

vaccine delivery

The multi-step process begins when the mRNA, a genetic material, is introduced into our bodies and taken up by specialized cells of the immune system. Once inside these cells, pieces of the viral surface protein are made, displayed on their surface, and then presented to other cells in the lymph nodes. These other cells then make antibodies that will fit perfectly onto the surface protein of the virus and stimulate other cells to kill virus infected cells. Now when the coronavirus tries to infect us, our immune system is ready, immediately recognizing, neutralizing, and destroying it, before we ever have a chance to become sick. The vaccine has helped our bodies create its own internal defense system against the coronavirus.


With so much disinformation being circulated amidst increasing numbers of unvaccinated people getting sick and dying during this pandemic, we see an urgent need to share accurate and detailed scientific information. We hope this video helps you to better understand the way vaccines work inside our bodies, and that you’ll use this knowledge to protect yourself, your family, and the members of your community. Stay tuned for news about our next video on viral vector vaccines…

Access the VMP’s free classroom materials, including XVIVO’s full series of related videos, here.

Learn more about the award-winning documentary for which the original animations were created. The documentary tells the compelling story of one of the world’s most accomplished scientists, Maurice Hilleman:

Find information and resources related to vaccines and their safety here. To see a comprehensive collection of medical animations by XVIVO, click here