As the masks come off and normalcy begins to pervade, the issue of vaccination persists. With the common trope at stores that masks are optional for the vaccinated, Kathy and I leave ours off as we’ve been vaccinated plenty over the years: polio, smallpox, measles, mumps, etc. We continue to avoid these COVID science fair experiments out of concern for reactions and autoimmune diseases. I spent a career taking care of folks with those things and have no desire for one of my own. Reports of myocarditis in vaccinated young adults are hardly reassuring.* But the real world intrudes. We love to travel and it’s looking more and more that some sort of proof of vaccination will be a requirement, at least for entry into Europe. We’ve seriously looked into acquiring a counterfeit version of the CDC vaccine record card. Then close to home comes the hammer of the big U. Kathy received an e-mail from her Dean Friday cheerily announcing the school’s version of a vaccine passport plus the existence of safety officers that will check into such things. The unvaccinated must remained masked and distanced, including in class. So we’ve decided to tuck tail, wear the star, and submit. That was the motivation for me to finally review the vaccines. I’d been looking at scientific papers, with descriptions of up to 60 vaccine candidates, including such scary things as adenovirus DNA vectors. Turns out there are only 3 vaccines out there for us Yanks. It’s a pretty simple choice. Do you want some test tube RNA encapsulated in anti freeze or a bit of hair of the dog itself, safely (we hope) disabled but capable of delivering the information to make your cells make spike protein? One shot or 2. Here ya go. Read ‘em and weep.
|Moderna||PEG encapsulated mRNA||2 shots, 28 days apart|
|Pfizer||PEG encapsulated mRNA||2 shots, 21 days apart|
|Johnson & Johnson||Viral vector (disabled virus which still delivers info to cell on how to make spike protein)||1 shot|
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is not approved for use in the U.S. It has an even scarier mechanism of action. To get your cells to make spike protein, you’re injected with an adenovirus – a DNA virus that is one of the causes of the common cold – into which DNA that codes for the RNA that makes spike protein has been spliced. Once in the cell, the cell’s DNA transcribing enzyme makes spike protein RNA that is translated on the cell’s ribosomes into spike protein, just like the COVID virus has. Unlike RNA, which is rapidly degraded in the cell, DNA hangs around. AstraZeneca scientists say the viral DNA won’t integrate into the cell’s chromosomes as the virus doesn’t carry in the enzyme – integrase – it would need to do that. But I think the whole system is just asking for trouble. One spot of trouble that’s emerged already is an increased incidence of blot clots among those receiving the vaccine. Blot clots are a known and sometimes fatal complication of COVID-19 infection. But, hey, AZ is just one shot! Not for me, thanks. The goal for all these vaccines.is always to get your own cells to make coronavirus spike protein, the action arm of the virus that attaches to lung cells and gets things going. When your own cells present newly made spike protein to your immune system, all arms are activated, as opposed to just the antibody response which would occur if you ground up virus and injected it, as all previous vaccines across the ages have been designed. It is for sure a molecular biology tour de force and the labs that designed it are in for multiple Nobels. I’m still a little wary of having my ribosomes hijacked to produce something they never were meant to make, to which a slightly too vigorous immune response might end up attacking my own organs. We’re all part of a huge scientific experiment here and I hope that 5 years hence we’re just telling each other stories about the silly lockdowns and not comparing notes on our new ailments. Time will tell.