April 11, 2021

Germs…. of truth

From the very origins of vaccination in western medicine with Edward Jenner’s breakthrough using the comparatively harmless cowpox virus vaccination to protect against smallpox infection, vaccination has elicited fear and suspicion. It is, after all, natural to be suspicious of someone injecting something derived from a potentially fatal disease into my body.

I am being asked to trust everyone in an increasingly complex supply chain

I need to trust that person, and, as supply chains for medical products become more complex, I have to trust everyone in that chain from the original research scientist, through to the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the vaccine, to the regulator that approved its use, to the health professional who administers it and even to the politician who exhorts me to ‘take the jab’. That’s a long list of people, many of whom I would have trouble trusting!

For many vaccine sceptics, trust could start with the person delivering the vaccine. If I trust that person or someone I trust recommends that I do, then the trust works backwards up the chain. Clearly, if I trust my healthcare professional, they must trust whoever supplied the vaccine and that the appropriate regulator has applied a full due diligence on the supplier of the vaccine, their procedures for quality control and distribution and their data relating to safety and efficacy.

In addition to the alternative narratives I explored in Schrödinger’s Virus, here are a few more alternative narratives circulating on the internet about Covid-19 vaccines:

  1. Covid-19 vaccines will alter our DNA
  2. Covid-19 vaccines will implant microchips into people so that Bill Gates can control them
  3. Huge numbers of people will die from taking the Covid-19 vaccine (Bill Gates said so)
  4. Covid-19 vaccines are rushed and shoddy – scientists say it takes 10 years to develop a new vaccine

Covid-19 vaccines will alter our DNA

I have had conversations with medical doctors who have this misunderstanding. This may be because the ‘new’ vaccines are based on recently developed mRNA technology. The ‘m’ in ‘mRNA’ stands for ‘messenger’. In human cells our genetic code which carries the information for our body’s structure and metabolism is held within a separate control centre inside almost every cell, the nucleus, encoded in a chemical called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). In order to make the proteins which actually form structures and carry out the processes of ‘living’ (like processing nutrients to make energy) this DNA doesn’t leave the nucleus; it sends out messengers to the rest of the cell (messenger RNA) which tells the ‘factories’ of the cells called ‘ribosomes’ to manufacture proteins.

mRNA carries messages from the nucleus to the ribosomes

Viruses contain either RNA or DNA and depending on which one, act in different ways in our cells. RNA viruses (like coronaviruses) interfere with the messages to the ribosomes by hijacking the mRNA and taking over the protein manufacture process in the ribosomes to create new viruses. And mRNA Covid-19 vaccines do something similar, only they just code for a small part of the virus, in most cases the ‘spike’ protein on the virus coat.

They do not penetrate the cell nucleus so never get anywhere near our human DNA.

mRNA vaccines operate in the cell’s cytoplasm, away from the DNA in the nucleus.

Once the spike protein is released from the cell, our immune system detects them and develops antibodies which remain available to us in the future (nobody yet knows for how long) to combat any virus that may try to infect us that has the same (or largely similar) spike protein. The mRNA that instructed the cells to create the spike protein is broken down by the cell shortly after the protein is synthesised and the bases recycled.

As I have mentioned before, misinformation often has a small piece of information within it, and in this case there is some evidence that the SARS-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19 can itself penetrate the nucleus and occasionally leave traces of its RNA within the cell’s DNA. It may be one reason for the very rare phenomenon of double PCR positive test results some months apart. Scientists are still working out the implications of this possibility.

Covid-19 vaccines will implant microchips into people so that Bill Gates can control them

Following this story tells us much about misinformation, how it arises and how it spreads.

Several years ago, a team at MIT set out to devise a method for recording vaccination information in a way that doesn’t require a centralized database or other infrastructure. This would work well in remote parts of the world without IT infrastructure. They came up with a technology allowing storage of vaccination data in a pattern of dye, invisible to the naked eye, delivered under the skin at the same time as the vaccine. The original (pre Covid pandemic) research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a Koch Institute Grant from the US National Cancer Institute.

It is (just about) possible to see how this morphed from a simple scientific research project designed to solve the real-world problem of recording vaccination in developing countries with poor digital infrastructures, funded in part by a charitable foundation set up by a philanthropic entrepreneur and his wife, to a global conspiracy hatched by the elite to control humans through inserting a data along with a vaccine.

However, there is absolutely no objective reason to believe that the academics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who carried out the research were anything other than independent scientists doing what they believed to be worthwhile work for the benefit of humanity, nor that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which lists some 23,344 such research grants, plus direct charitable donations and ‘program related investments’ is doing anything other than supporting research into world health issues, which is its primary focus. It takes a particular mindset to morph the one into the other.

Huge numbers of people will die from taking the Covid-19 vaccine (Bill Gates said so)

This one is simple: no he didn’t! In April 2020, while discussing how a vaccine development might compare with the flu vaccine, he said, ‘Here, we clearly need a vaccine that works in the upper age range because they’re most at risk of that. And doing that so that you amp it up so it works in older people, and yet you don’t have side effects. If we have one in 10,000 side effects, that’s way more — 700,000 people who will suffer from that.’ This has morphed to a prediction of 700,000 vaccine related deaths. However, he is in fact laying out the mathematics of a theoretical scenario and makes no mention at all of a vaccine mortality rate.

Covid-19 vaccines are rushed and shoddy – scientists say it takes 10 years to develop a new vaccine

Once again, there is a germ of truth in this concern.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many scientists predicted that development of a vaccine would take many years and history seemed to support this view. The Wellcome Trust estimated that a vaccine usually takes over 10 years and up to $500 million to bring to market. This is because the development process is expensive, so to keep costs down development takes place slowly, each stage only beginning when the previous stage is successfully completed:

The Wellcome Trust comparison of timelines for Covid-19 vaccine development v normal vaccine development

When making vaccines, a lot of time is spent waiting for things to happen, one after another, in a particular sequence:

  • waiting for people to become infected to test the vaccine,
  • waiting for independent agencies to check results,
  • deciding whether to continue an expensive development process
  • waiting for regulators to approve things

To make the Covid-19 vaccine faster, people signed up for trials before vaccines were even ready. Global collaboration led to simultaneous international testing, and regulators have been checking results on a rolling basis, week by week. Money has been put up to start manufacturing before tests have finished, something not normally attempted because the costs and risks of failure are so high. So all the steps that could be, have been carried out simultaneously so telescoping the timeline for the vaccine development.

In 2012/3 MERS mortality was 35%

It is also a myth that the vaccine development started with the isolation of the SARS-Cov-2 virus in 2020. Much of the research on which the new generation of vaccines is based goes back many years. mRNA vaccine technology goes back to 1990. The ‘viral vector technology’ utilised by the Oxford/Astrazenica and Sputnik V vaccines dates back to 2016 and was already used in human trials for a possible vaccine against another zoonotic human coronavirus, ‘Camel flu’ or MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). The successful targeting of the spike protein by the current mRNA vaccines is also based on work on other viruses going back to 2009 and specifically on coronaviruses, including MERS, since 2012. So yes, it used to take 10 years to develop a vaccine.

Arguably it took centuries to develop the first comparatively safe and effective smallpox vaccine. But then, my first computer came with 1 Kb of memory in 1981, and my first hard drive, five years later, came with a 10 Mb capacity. Sitting on the table next to me I have a 4 Tb hard drive. After 35 years of research and development, that’s four million times the capacity. Such is progress…

And that’s how on April 9th, I went to have my first dose of vaccine against Covid-19 and had a small epiphany…..

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