Naming a vaccine

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Last year on Dec. 8, two elderly British people were the first to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine they received was made by German biotech company BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceuticals company Pfizer. The vaccine uses mRNA — messenger RNA — to protect against the COVID-19 disease. Ever since, people have called it simply “the Pfizer shot.” But Pfizer makes vaccines to protect against many diseases, including smallpox, tetanus and polio. Each of its vaccines has a unique name. In the U.S., Pfizer calls its COVID-19 shot “Pfizer-BioNTech.” But when Pfizer talked with the European Union about making and selling its vaccine in the EU, it gave the vaccine a new name: Comirnaty (koe-MIR-na-tee). The name mixes four words together: COVID-19, mRNA, community and immunity. You have to look carefully to see the words — they’ve been chopped up — but they are there. Comirnaty is made in Europe but is the same as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine made in the United States. Japan has bought tens of millions of Comirnaty shots from Europe. If you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine ticket in your mail, you may see “Comirnaty(コミナティ)” written somewhere in the papers in the envelope. Sadly, the name doesn’t seem to be popular. Newspapers still call the vaccine “the Pfizer shot.” Perhaps it’s because “Comirnaty” feels hard to pronounce, even for native English speakers. On the other hand, it could have been worse. Pfizer and BioNTech were thinking of calling the vaccine Covuity, RnaxCovi or Kovimerna — try getting your tongue around those! Meanwhile, the EU has given Moderna the OK to call its COVID-19 vaccine “Spikevax.” Easy to say, easy to remember. (T) This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

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