Covid-19 vaccine and gene therapy – Ataxia

Covid-19 vaccine and gene therapy

Covid-19 vaccine and gene therapy

Vaccines currently approved in the UK 

At present, there are three Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK: 

  • Pfizer/BioNTech 
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca 
  • Moderna 

How do these vaccines work? 

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines: Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. These vaccines give our body the instructions to make the ‘spike protein, which is a harmless piece found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus. The body’s immune system recognizes that the spike protein should not be there and develops antibodies against it. This means that the body has learnt how to protect against future Covid-19 infectionOnce the mRNA is used by the body, it breaks down so no more spike protein is made. mRNA vaccines do not use any live virus nor affect the body’s genetic code (DNA) in any way. 

Viral vector vaccines: The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. Viral vector vaccines use a virus to deliver the ‘spike protein’, which is a harmless piece found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus. The virus used to deliver the spike protein is not the virus which causes Covid-19, but a different virus called adenovirusAdenovirus is harmless and does not cause an infection nor affect the body’s genetic code (DNA) in any way. The body’s immune system recognizes that the delivered spike protein should not be there and develops antibodies against it. This means that the body has learnt how to protect against future Covid-19 infection. 

Which vaccine should I have? 

Currently, we have no evidence to suggest that one vaccine is better than the other for people with ataxia. Therefore, Ataxia UK does not recommend any particular vaccination over the other. We recommend having the vaccine type that has been offered to you. 

Will having a vaccine affect me having gene therapy treatment in the future? 

The majority of gene therapies currently being developed for ataxias use viruses called adeno-associated viruses. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines do not use viruses and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine uses a virus called adenovirus. Although these names sound similar, the virus used in the Covid-19 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (adenovirus) are a different type of virus compared to those used for gene therapy (adeno-associated viruses), and do not have the same componentsThere is no evidence to suggest that taking the vaccine will cause your body to make antibodieagainst the adeno-associated viruses that are currently being used in gene therapies. There is currently no reason to believe that having a Covid-19 vaccine will affect your eligibility or safety in a gene therapy clinical trial in the future. 

If you have any questions in relation to this please contact the Ataxia UK helpline or 0800 995 6037 (Tues-Thurs 10:30-14:30). 



Please understand that this advice is given on the basis of the limited information at the time of writing, and that neither Ataxia UK nor the Medical Advisor can accept responsibility for any actions arising from it. 



Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
fundraise image


Take part in a challenge or create your fundraiser. Every penny you raise will help those affected by ataxia.

Donate Image


To make either a one off or recurring donation which will help fund research into treatments and cures and supports those affected ataxia

Volunteer Image


Support the ataxia community and volunteer with Ataxia UK. From social media to telephone befriending, there are loads of ways you can make a difference to someone's life.

Donate Now
Scroll to Top