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Is the COVID-19 vaccine right for you?

Steve Maschmeyer, CMTPT, LMT


I​t's no secret at this point: Two vaccines for COVID-19 are available in the United States. One was developed by Pfizer and the other by Moderna.

As a trained scientist, I am naturally skeptical of EVERYTHING. I admit I had several concerns about these vaccines, concerns that have been echoed by many people around the world.

A brand-new vaccine created for a brand-new disease rushed in and out of production? Add in all the conflicting political rhetoric and my gut reaction was to say, "no thanks" and run for the hills!

I did what any scientist would do in this situation: I kept a level head. I read the research, analyzed the evidence, and drew logical conclusions.

My goal is to help you cut through all the noise and get to the truth in simple, easy-to-understand terms.

First: The two vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are "Messenger RNA" (mRNA) vaccines. Messenger RNA vaccines are new and revolutionary, compared to traditional methods of vaccination.

Second: What does that mean? Let me break it down, bit by bit.

The 8 key points we are going to discuss:

  • What are antibodies and antigens?
  • H​ow do traditional vaccines work?
  • H​ow are mRNA vaccines different?
  • Do the COVID-19 vaccines work?
  • A​re the COVID-19 vaccines safe?
  • How to Improve Vaccine Efficacy.
  • Vaccinate if I have already had COVID-19?
  • Risk of death from receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine?

1.  What are antibodies and antigens?

Microbes (more commonly known as "germs") exist EVERYWHERE. In the air you breathe. In the food you eat. On your toes. In your mouth.  Not all these microbes are bad. Some are quite nice! Some are just there.  Some are PATHOGENS.

Pathogens are infectious microbes that can cause disease. Pathogens can be viruses, bacteria, parasites, or even fungi.

Each pathogen has its own unique antigen. An antigen is almost like a pathogen's ID card. 

Meanwhile, antibodies are like your body's security guards. They check the IDs (antigens) of incoming microbes. Antibodies are proteins that identify and neutralize threats to your body.

When a pathogen enters your body with a never-before-seen antigen, your body does not recognize the threat right away. It takes time for your body to develop antibodies capable of recognizing the antigen and neutralizing the threat. During that time, you get sick. Once you have antibodies that recognize the antigen of a particular pathogen, you become immune to that pathogen. Unfortunately, some pathogens evolve VERY rapidly, developing new antigens your body cannot recognize. This can cause you to become repeatedly ill with similar diseases or get repeat vaccinations. Cold and flu viruses are prime examples of this.

2.  H​ow do traditional vaccines work?

Traditional vaccines inject a weakened or inactive part of a pathogen into your body. This way, your body has time to recognize the threat and develop antibodies without you getting sick... Or at least that is the idea.

I​t works well most of the time, but there are cases of people reporting symptoms after getting a vaccine. These symptoms are typically minor compared to the full-blown disease.

This method of preventing disease is often credited to Edward Jenner. Jenner was a British scientist who discovered a way to prevent smallpox in 1796. He did not exactly use a "vaccine" in the way we think of them today. There was no needle and no solution developed at a lab. Instead, he exposed people to cowpox. Cowpox was a virus like smallpox, but weaker. Jenner found that exposure to cowpox prevented people from getting smallpox.

T​here's evidence that similar "vaccination" methods were used throughout the world long before Jenner. Still, the idea was the same: Introduce the body to a weakened or inactive pathogen to develop immunity without getting sick.

I​n the 200+ years since Jenner's discovery, scientists have continued to study and improve methods of vaccination. Thanks to vaccines, herd immunity to diseases is possible. After thousands of years not having herd immunity to smallpox, vaccines eliminated it in 1980. We are remarkably close to eradicating polio as well.

The near-elimination of polio is particularly noteworthy because—like COVID-19—there are many asymptomatic cases that make it difficult to trace.

3.  H​ow are mRNA vaccines different than traditional vaccines?

Unlike traditional vaccines, Messenger RNA vaccines do NOT contain a weakened or inactive part of a pathogen.

The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer do NOT contain any part of the coronavirus—or any other virus, for that matter.

So, how do they work?

What RNA is...

Y​our body's cells contain DNA. This DNA is code for how your body works. Like a script or blueprint.

This code gets copied into RNA messages. The RNA messages get translated into proteins that do various jobs.

Imagine a construction blueprint for an entire city. The blueprint contains instructions for where to pave streets, where to build City Hall, where to build police and fire departments, commercial districts, residential districts, a sewage system, power lines, etc.

There are foremen who supervise all the different construction projects. These foremen read the blueprint and give directions to the construction workers.

I​n this comparison, YOU are the city. The blueprint is your DNA. The foremen are RNA messengers. The construction workers are proteins.  Antibodies are proteins... The job of these proteins is to recognize and neutralize threats to your body. In the city metaphor, they are your body's police officers.

A​ Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine sends a message to your body's cells to create antibody proteins that recognize a pathogen's antigen. Once those antibodies are created, your body's cells throw those instructions in the trash.

Quite frankly, mRNA vaccines are a remarkable scientific achievement. The speed with which the COVID-19 vaccines were created is particularly impressive.

To do this, scientists had to sequence the genome of the COVID-19 virus. Coronavirus is a bit of a weirdo in that it has no DNA. It only has RNA, which is common among viruses. Scientists then studied the RNA and identified function of each message. Once they identified the RNA message responsible for creating a protein that acts as an antigen, they knew what protein to put in the vaccine.

The ingenuity of this method is that your own body creates the antigen. Your body follows the instructions of the RNA message to create the antigen itself. It is then able to develop antibodies trained to recognize and neutralize that antigen.

This way, your body can achieve immunity without ever being exposed to the virus at all, not even in vaccine form.

The mRNA vaccines possess other advantages:

  • Shorter manufacture times, allowing for fast mass-production just as with the COVID-19 vaccines. This also allows for faster clinical testing.
  • Potential to vaccinate for several diseases at once. If you have children, you know the first years of life are full of needle pokes. Soldiers endure the prick of many vaccine needles before heading overseas. This may be reduced, as mRNA vaccination technology continues to advance.
  • Potential for fighting cancer. In the future, scientists may even be able to send RNA messages into your body to attack cancer cells.

4.  Do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

Let us study the clinical trials...

Trials for the Pfizer vaccine involved 44,000 people in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. Half received the vaccine; half received the placebo. The placebo is a harmless imitation that lacks any therapeutic value beyond the psychological effects of thinking you received the vaccine.

Each half included participants that varied widely in age, race, weight, and other factors.

The clinical trials observed that new cases of COVID-19 tapered off 10 days after the first dose. The efficacy after this first dose was observed to be 52%.

The intent was the second dose would provide a major long-term boost in immunity, as is the case with several other vaccines. Clinical trials found the efficacy to catapult to 95% after the second dose.

These results were consistent across all age groups, races, and body types. This is a promising sign, as we have all seen that COVID-19 is more severe for different groups.

Moderna’s vaccine underwent a similar process, involving 30,420 volunteers in the United States. Half received two doses of the vaccine; the other half received two doses of a placebo.

These trials found the incidence of symptomatic COVID-19 to be 94.1%-95.2% less common in people who received the vaccine compared to the placebo.

In conclusion, Scientific data suggests COVID-19 vaccines work fine for the vast majority of people.

This is consistent with the efficacy of most other vaccines.

5.  A​re the COVID-19 vaccines safe?

Let us review the scientific data...

When the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed the results of the clinical trials, they found there to be no major issues, including adverse effects. Many people who were vaccinated experienced fatigue, headaches, and a few other minor side effects that only lasted a day.

One of the concerns many people have about the COVID-19 vaccines is the speed with which they were developed. There is a natural fear that corners were cut in the usual safety regulations.

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines were "held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States." "safety and effectiveness standards".

Allergic reactions to the vaccine are an issue that did not arise in clinical trials. Some people experienced allergic reactions in the large-scale rollout since.

Despite how widely publicized these allergic reactions are, they are rare.

32.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in 45 countries. Out of all those doses, there are only 29 documented cases of allergic reactions.

There are plenty of other safety claims (and myths) circulating the internet:

A​re there "microchips" or "Nano transmitters" in COVID-19 vaccines?

This is a conspiracy theory related to comments by Bill Gates about a "digital certificate of vaccine records." Despite the widely circulated misinterpretation, he was NOT referring to microchips

He was referring to electronic documentation, much like having access to car insurance documents on your cell phone. The conversation in which "digital certificates" were mentioned was not even related to vaccines.

Will the COVID-19 vaccines (and other mRNA vaccines) alter my DNA?

The nucleus of your cells houses your DNA. The RNA messages contained in the vaccine never enter the nucleus of your cells, so they cannot affect your DNA.

Earlier it was mentioned that your body throws the RNA messages into the trash after it creates the antigen and antibodies. This is true for ALL RNA messages, including the ones your body creates on its own.

Once RNA messages have been read and the appropriate proteins created, your body no longer needs them. RNA then degrades very quickly after, as your body's cells are remarkably smart and efficient.

Do the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility or increase the risk for miscarriage?

Another one of the more widely circulated claims on the internet is that antibodies designed to recognize and attack the COVID-19 antigen will bind to placental proteins and prevent pregnancy.

I have found no evidence of this. In fact, I have never read of any virus or vaccine that has caused infertility.

However, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. More than 50,000 pregnant women in the United States have been sickened by COVID-19. While it is known that pregnant women are at a higher risk for a severe experience with COVID-19, there has NOT been an increase in miscarriage rates among those sickened.

IF the antibodies created by vaccines caused an increased risk for miscarriage, we would already see an increase in miscarriage rates among those infected by COVID-19, as the antibodies are the same. Since there is NOT an increase in miscarriage rates among those infected, it should be safe to assume the vaccine will not cause an increase either.

During the Pfizer vaccine trials, 23 participants became pregnant. Only one suffered a miscarriage—and she was in the placebo group, so she did not receive the vaccine.

What if I am allergic to eggs?

M​any traditional vaccines use egg cells in development. This sometimes causes people with egg allergies to have reactions. Fortunately, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do NOT contain any egg cells and egg cells were NOT used in development.

 6.  How to improve Vaccine Efficacy?

Research conducted with other types of vaccines has shown that stress, depression, lack of social support, and lack of sleep can impair the immune system’s response to vaccines. Other lifestyle habits that can have a negative impact include lack of exercise, poor overall nutrition, and smoking.

7.  Should I vaccinate if I have already had SARS-CoV-2?

People with a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection can also be vaccinated (except for those who received passive antibody therapy). Those in low-risk groups may opt to defer vaccination when supplies are limited. There is NO Known Reason to delay vaccination. People in high-risk groups should not defer vaccination, regardless of past COVID-19. The CDC states that reinfection is uncommon for up to 90 days after first infections, and research also shows that reinfection is uncommon for up to 5-6 months following infection. Actual number is unknown.

For those who receive mono-clonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as a treatment before receiving any vaccine, vaccination should be deferred for al least 90days after therapy.

People who have been exposed can be vaccinated, but most should defer until their quarantine period has ended.

8.  Risk of death from receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine?

About 6% of the American population has received at least one dose of the vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna. 1% have received 2 doses.

There have been deaths associated around the vaccination. But so far, the news sources are not scientific and often profit from panic reading.

‘Norway reported deaths among elderly people with serious underlying health conditions following administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, but a review by the World Health Organization found no evidence of a connection to the vaccine.’

“WHO has a rather poor reputation for non-biased reporting.”

Thirty-three were reported in mid-January among some 42,000 people given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Norway, where authorities have prioritized the immunization of nursing-home residents. Those who died were all in the “75 years +” bracket and they included terminally ill patients anticipated to have only weeks or months to live. 

In Germany, where more than 800,000 people have received their first of two doses of the the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Paul Ehrlich Institute has investigated at least seven cases of elderly people dying shortly after vaccination. In its report, it said the deaths were probably due to the patients’ underlying diseases including carcinomas, kidney deficiencies and Alzheimer’s, not the inoculation. Millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered in the U.S., U.K. and some other countries with no deaths reported due to the vaccine, Abrar Chughtai, a lecturer in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, told the Australian Science Media Centre.

Source is Bloomberg

A Northern California man dies Thursday, several hours after receiving a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Placer County Public Health and the Placer County Sheriff's Office.

In conclusion:

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines have been extensively studied and tested for decades. The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are the first to become widely available.

They represent a remarkable step forward in medicine. This achievement may open the gates for safer and more efficient vaccination in the future. They may even help fight cancer one day.

Now you should be armed with good information as necessary (or "Everything You Need to Know") to make an informed decision for yourself.

The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are more effective than flu vaccines at preventing a disease that's deadlier than the flu.

It should be noted 21 million doses have been given as of mid-January and very few, if any, have been attributed to the vaccine.

Symptoms have been mostly fever, headache, and pain at the site of the injection. These side effects generally disappear quickly. More worrisome, a small number of vaccine recipients have had a serious, but treatable, allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis.