Vaccine Resources

To help the St. Louis community understand the importance of vaccination and dispel misinformation of all vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, the City of St. Louis Department of Health (DOH) and the Saint Louis Science Center have partnered to provide informational resources on a variety of vaccine-related topics.

Check out the videos and infographics below to learn more about viruses, vaccines and COVID-19.

Want to get vaccinated? Visit the City of St. Louis DOH website for information.

The Science of Vaccines

Join Saint Louis Science Center educator John Nahon for a deeper look at the science of DNA and mRNA vaccines.

Mask Hacks

Masks are still required in many public places if you are not fully vaccinated, and in some areas like public transportation, they are required regardless of vaccination status. Learn how to make your mask use efficient and comfortable with the help of our Saint Louis Science Center team!

Chat With A Scientist: Vaccine Development

In January, members virtually sat down with a panel of experts via Zoom from Saint Louis University to discuss vaccine development and COVID-19. Members got the opportunity to ask questions to our panel and have an open discussion with each panelist. They were joined by Dr. Daniel Hoft, MD, Phd, Director of Saint Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, Dr. Enbal Shacham, PhD, Associate Director of the Geospatial Institute at Saint Louis University and Dr. Ricardo Wray, PhD, Department Chair Behavioral Science & Health Education.

Check out the recorded discussion.

What And Where Is It?

Your immune system is an entire system of cells, tissues, organs, and internal pathways working together to protect you from infections and disease.

1 – Mucous membranes run all the way from your nose and mouth through your trachea (windpipe) and intestines. They produce mucus, a field of sticky snot that traps pathogens. Mucus in your nose and mouth are a first line of defense against airborne pathogens.

2 – The thymus gland is where T-cells (a type of white blood cell) mature before specializing into different T-cell types and roles to fight infections.

3 – Lymph nodes are clusters of tissue where white blood cells are stored, ready to be dispatched whenever immune system “messenger” cells show up, requesting backup.

4 – Lymphatic vessels run parallel alongside your blood vessels, and use the movement of surrounding muscles to move cellular waste and white blood cells where they need to go throughout your body.

5 – The spleen also stores specialized white blood cells (B-cells and T-cells), and filters out old blood cells and antibody-coated bacteria for disposal.

6 – Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and is made up of multiple thick layers of cells that block pathogens from getting in and infecting you.

7 – Bone marrow is where white blood cells are made. These new white blood cells will be trained to attack invading pathogens.

Cell Lineup

Your immune system is made up of a lot of hard working cells, all working together to protect you from infection and disease. Here are the stars of your body’s defensive lineup.


Macrophages are the first responder white blood cells at the scene of a possible infection. Macrophages engulf and dissolve pathogens, get rid of dead cells, and send chemical signals to activate additional immune system cells.

Helper T-cell

Helper T-cells are a type of multi-tasking white blood cell that receives identifying information (intel) on invading antigens from dendritic cells. They quickly multiply and take on special roles based on the information they receive.

  • Some become long-term Memory T-cells, which remember the new antigen, and then go on patrol to look for invaders.
  • Some Helper T-cells head to the lymph nodes to activate and help the B-cells produce the right antibodies to fight the antigen.
  • Some Helper Ts become Regulator cells, which head back to the battlefield to direct and call for killer cells.


Neutrophils are the first reinforcements to arrive at a potential infection site. These white blood cells trap and kill invading pathogens so violently, they are programmed to selfdestruct after 5 days in order to minimize friendly-fire damage.

Killer T-cell

Killer T-cells are white blood cells designed to take out a specific, recognized pathogen.

Dendritic Cell

Dendritic cells collect remains of the invading threat (antigens) to analyze, ID, and decide what kind of help is needed next. Information on unfamiliar antigens is shared with Helper T-cells.


B-cells are white blood cells that hang out in the lymph nodes and produce antibodies (special proteins that latch onto invading pathogens so they can be destroyed) against specific germs when given instructions from Helper T-cells.

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Hand Washing

Clean those hands! Make sure your hands are clean before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth— all places where germs can get past your skin and into your body and make you sick.


WASH your hands before meals, after using the restroom, and after sneezing or coughing into your hands.


USE SOAP and SCRUB well to remove soil and germs (microbes that can make you sick) that water can’t remove by itself.


SING and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing (or hum) the “Happy Birthday” song twice.


DRY your hands, because wet hands can spread up to 1000 times more germs than dry ones.

If unable to use soap and water, use a hand sanitizer made of at least 60% alcohol, rubbing the product all over your hands, and waiting until the sanitizer has dried completely. Soap and water are preferable because alcohol does not eliminate or remove germs and chemicals the same way soap and water can.

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Vaccine Types

Have you heard of measles, polio, whooping cough, chickenpox, tetanus, or hepatitis A? These are all diseases that use vaccines as a way to prevent getting infected and spreading the disease through a population.

Some vaccines expose your immune system to pieces of a germ, others to a whole germ that is inactivated or even dead. These pieces can’t make you sick, but they can prepare your immune system to recognize and protect you against future exposure to specific pathogens that cause disease.

No vaccines use a live, full-strength germ or toxin.

Subunit Vaccines Subunit Vaccines contain and introduce pieces of a germ’s makeup, like an outer protein, sugar, or just its outer shell.Shingles, Human Papillomavirus, Meningococcal Disease, Hepatitis B
Live Attenuated VaccinesLive Attenuated Vaccines use a weakened version of a pathogen. The modified infectious agent can’t make you sick, but it can it still trigger an immune response strong enough to protect against future exposure to the real thingChickenpox, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Smallpox
Toxoid VaccinesToxoid Vaccines use an inactivated form of a toxin (harmful substance) that is made by germs that cause disease.Tetanus, Diphtheria
Inactivated Virus VaccinesInactivated Virus Vaccines use whole inactivated or killed (dead) pathogens.Rabies, Hepatitis A, Polio, Influenza
mRNA VaccinesmRNA vaccines provide the instructions for a protein from a pathogen that your cells can create and use to mobilize your immune system. The messenger RNA (mRNA) breaks down very quickly, so it is only intact long enough to be used by your body to make the needed identifying protein before falling apart.COVID-19 (Pfizer and Moderna)
DNA VaccinesDNA vaccines use DNA (blueprints or instructions) for protein pieces from a pathogen that your immune system can then learn to recognize and destroy if you are exposed to the actual germ.

The DNA vaccine cannot replicate, combine with, or change your own DNA. The DNA instructions fall apart very quickly, and are around only long enough to provide the information your immune system needs to protect you from future pathogen exposure.
COVID-19 (Johnson & Johnson), West Nile Virus in horses, Melanoma in dogs

mRNA and DNA Vaccines

Current COVID-19 vaccines use the instructions for the spike proteins found on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These proteins can’t infect you or make you sick, but they can activate your body’s
immune system.

Your cells use the vaccine information to naturally produce the spike proteins as part of its normal protein production process so your immune system can protect you from future COVID-19 virus exposure.

Type 1:

mRNA Vaccine

1. mRNA (messenger RNA) Vaccine delivers COVID-19 spike protein instructions to the protein factories in your cells. The mRNA falls apart quickly on its own after being translated.

2. cell nucleus

3. ribosomes (protein factories)

4. COVID-19 spike proteins

5. Immune response creates antibodies to fight spike proteins

6. immune response antibodies disable spike proteins on COVID-19 virus upon future exposure

Type 2:

DNA Vaccine

1. DNA Vaccine delivers DNA instructions for spike proteins to the nucleus of your cells. It does not combine with or change your DNA. The instructions go through normal cellular protein production, being copied into mRNA , and sent to ribosomes for spike protein production.

2. cell nucleus

3. ribosomes (protein factories)

4. COVID-19 spike proteins

5. Antibodies against spike proteins created

6. C-19 virus disabled by antibodies during future exposure

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DNA and mRNA vaccines cannot combine with or change your DNA. They both fall apart quickly on their own, and are only around long enough to introduce your immune system to COVID-19 spike proteins to protect you from future exposure to the virus.

The Saint Louis Science Center is proud to be a collaborator with the Smithsonian in developing a coordinated, national approach to vaccine education.