This is going to be some hard stuff about the COVID vaccines. It grew from an exchange on a U of M Alumni Society forum. So first I must tell you something about the Alumni Society. Kathy and I became life members of the U of M Alumni Association last June. I believe she and I both qualify: Kathy with her 3 post graduate degrees, 2 post-doctoral fellowships, and 20 years of employment then me with a bachelor’s, master’s, post-doctoral fellowship, and 34 years on faculty. Plus we both started attending U of M football games with our families in the early 60s, me in ’64 and Kathy even before that. True Blue. So we never felt the need to join some sort of organization to prove to the world we’re proud to be part of 634,888 worldwide U of M alumni, largest alumni group in the world. Go Blue!. But we’ve done some things through the Alumni Society, taking a nice cruise from Scotland to Norway 3 years ago, and always consulting the site when we were travelling over the time of a football or basketball game. Expat alumni in cities all over the world congregate in certain bars to watch the game and it was always fun to be in a crowd like that. Last year they floated a special offer for lifetime membership and we decided to go for it. There are many benefits (see table below) and we immediately enjoyed out blue fleece jackets. There are online forums for many different interests. I mainly looked at the travel forum, where member shared tips and questions.
Yesterday was posted the following question in the form of a survey:
“Will you travel abroad once vaccinated?”
Answers as of noon today
I did not answer the poll as I don’t wish to qualify. Instead, I posted the following brief comment:
“won’t get vaccinated unless forced. I like the nucleic acids God gave me.”
Which got one snide reply lamenting ignorance about vaccines, likely steeped in religious fundamentalism and dark age attitudes.
But another guy posed an intelligent question. He’d even taken the trouble to look me up. I looked him up. A chemical engineering grad, so he must have some smarts:
How does the vaccine alter said nucleic acids? According to my research, you are Dr. Ike, distinguished emeritus faculty at the medical school. You have a responsibility to explain what you mean by this comment. Otherwise, it may appear that you are spreading misinformation.
To which I replied:
The vaccine is a nucleic acid, a strand of messenger RNA with the same information COVID uses to make the infected cell manufacture spike protein, which is what the virus uses to latch onto and penetrate lung cells. The lab-made mRNA is packaged in a nanoparticle made of polyethylene glycol (same stuff as anti-freeze). The injected particles penetrate human cells, where the freed strands of mRNA latch on to ribosomes, the protein complexes where information on the RNA brings in amino acids, building blocks of proteins, each one having a unique 3 nucleotide code expressed in the RNA, and the assembled amino acids forming a protein, to act either as a structural component of the cell or as an enzyme, catalyzing complex chemical reactions. It’s an elegant and surprisingly simple system. Read The Language of God by U of M’s own Francis Collins*, now head of the NIH, and certain future Nobel Prize winner. By having the spike protein made by the host we’re trying to protect, rather than just injecting spike protein like older vaccines worked, makes all arms of the immune system recognize this foreign protein and gear up to be able to attack it should something similar reappear. It’s a molecular biology tour de force and the groups that developed it are in for their own Nobel someday. The injected RNA is eventually degraded. However, every cell has a small amount of the enzyme reverse transcriptase, which can take a strand of RNA and manufacture a strand of DNA with the same information. DNA is very stable and can integrate into DNA that’s already there, i.e. our chromosomes. Only transformed cells – cancer cells – make much reverse transcriptase. The late Michael Crichton, an M.D., knew of this phenomenon and used it in the plot to Jurassic Park, explaining how the supposedly safe all-female dinosaur clones became able to breed. Having a new gene that made us able to make coronavirus spike protein wouldn’t be all bad. It would be like getting a constant immune booster against COVID. But that would work only if the spike protein of the constantly mutating coronavirus didn’t change much. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Having foreign DNA nestle someplace in your chromosomes could alter expression of the gene it sits next to, possibly even transforming the cell. These are not the vaccines of our youth, which were just ground up, killed or otherwise altered fragments of the organisms we wanted to be protected against: smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, etc. In my own humble opinion, this new technology is too big a risk, however miniscule, for what could be a marginal, short lived benefit. Hence my earlier comment. Hope this all helps.
I’ve been delinquent in my pledge made months ago to dive deep into these vaccines and really learn what they are all about https://wordpress.com/post/theviewfromharbal.com/1029. I have learned a little more, hence my answer above. After posting that reply, I decided to do a formal search to see if there really might be a problem with reverse transcriptase and RNA vaccines, or if it was just something from an old science fiction novel and movie. I employed my three favorite engines – Medline, PubMed, and Scopus – looking for publications that reference these two search terms together. Surprisingly few things popped up. Scanning titles, I saw nothing addressing the problem directly. Of the 16 references Medline produced, one – a January review of COVID treatment and prevention, looked like it might at least address the problem, but was in a journal the library didn’t get and couldn’t be accessed online. So I have interlibrary loan pulling it for me. I’ll see what it says. Meanwhile, I’ll remain a member of the COVID vaccine resistance. Another set of unread articles on my computer concern vaccination and travel. With Kathy retiring in June, travel is something we want to do much more of. We may end up having to submit just for that. Well, at least the vaccine doesn’t come with a tattoo, yet.
So if any of you readers are U of M alums, here’s why to sign up for a life membership. No letters of recommendations required, but we’d be happy to supply you one if asked.
* see Francis Collins, still technically a Professor of Medicine at U of M, where he discovered the genes for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, and Huntington’s chorea (which claimed Woody Guthrie), before leaving to head the Human Genome Project then be appointed by Obama to head the National Institutes of Health, as he mounts his red Harley to take him on the 15 minute commute from Chevy Chase to his office at the NIH in Bethesda. Oh, and he plays the guitar, sometimes in a rock band, and sings with opera singers. He is a devout Christian.