Day 46 of the Omer
As explained before (My Experience With and Thoughts on Vaccination), I've never been an "anti-vaxxer." However, that might be changing and that's because vaccines themselves are changing.
To put it the simplest way possible, the vaccines we have had up until now depended on a natural process whereby the body would be purposely exposed to a dead or weakened strain of a virus or bacteria prompting the immune system to create antibodies to it, preventing a more serious and debilitating infection in the future.
Scientists are now experimenting with a brand new vaccine delivery system which is much more invasive and manipulative of the body at the cellular level. It's important for us to try to understand this new system because the so-called COVID-19 vaccine will be the first of this kind to be given to human beings. Until now it has been used on "humanized mice."
The race for a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is on, with 54 different vaccines under development, two of which are already being tested in humans, according to the World Health Organization. And among the different candidates is a new player on the scene – mRNA vaccines.If the old tried and true system worked so well for so long, why change it? Good question. Every site I looked at agreed that "RNA vaccines are faster and cheaper to produce than traditional vaccines,...." And there is something else they all agreed upon: "...we need a better understanding of their potential side effects, and more evidence of their long term efficacy."
...If an mRNA vaccine was approved for coronavirus, it would be the first of its type. ‘It's a very unique way of making a vaccine and, so far, no (such) vaccine has been licenced for infectious disease,’ said Prof. Bekeredjian-Ding.
Vaccines work by training the body to recognise and respond to the proteins produced by disease-causing organisms, such as a virus or bacteria. Traditional vaccines are made up of small or inactivated doses of the whole disease-causing organism, or the proteins that it produces, which are introduced into the body to provoke the immune system into mounting a response.
mRNA vaccines, in contrast, trick the body into producing some of the viral proteins itself. They work by using mRNA, or messenger RNA, which is the molecule that essentially puts DNA instructions into action. Inside a cell, mRNA is used as a template to build a protein. ‘An mRNA is basically like a pre-form of a protein and its (sequence encodes) what the protein is basically made of later on,’ said Prof. Bekeredjian-Ding.
To produce an mRNA vaccine, scientists produce a synthetic version of the mRNA that a virus uses to build its infectious proteins. This mRNA is delivered into the human body, whose cells read it as instructions to build that viral protein, and therefore create some of the virus’s molecules themselves. These proteins are solitary, so they do not assemble to form a virus. The immune system then detects these viral proteins and starts to produce a defensive response to them.
...There is still a lot of work to be done to understand this response, the length of the protection it could give and whether there are any downsides. (Source)
The methods to make mRNA vaccines can be very effective. However, there are technical challenges to overcome to ensure these vaccines work appropriately:
Unintended effects: the mRNA strand in the vaccine may elicit an unintended immune reaction. To minimise this the mRNA vaccine sequences are designed to mimic those produced by mammalian cells.
Delivery: delivering the vaccine effectively to cells is challenging since free RNA in the body is quickly broken down. To help achieve delivery, the RNA strand is incorporated into a larger molecule [what would that be?] to help stabilise it and/or packaged into particles or liposomes. (Source)The rush (Operation Warp Speed) to get this COVID-19 vaccine to market may excuse shortcuts in testing that could have unexpected and even tragic consequences. No one should be forced to take this vaccine against their will.
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