By K. Boo
COVID-19 sucks. I do not need to go into details about why. We all know the effects it has had on this country and the world as a whole. It would be great if the virus could just disappear and we could go back to pre-pandemic life, but, I hate to break it to you, that is not going to happen.
How do you envision the world returning to “normal?” Should we just open up one day, pull an Ivan Drago from Rocky IV and say, “If they die, they die” to all those at risk of catching the coronavirus?
“The worldwide death toll is only 2.2%, right?”
Well, that 2.2% doesn’t seem to matter until it’s your mom or dad, your brother or sister (I would also like to note that the death rate is likely much higher, as countries like Russia have discrepancies in their data.
“It only effects older people and their time is coming anyway, right?”
Okay, let’s not talk about the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) and long-term illnesses associated with COVID-19 in the adolescent population.
The point of this article is not to scare you, but instead point out the realities of COVID-19 that are often overlooked as people face pandemic burnout and wish to return to how things were. I would also like to offer an option for those looking to return to normal: vaccination.
The room gets quiet, murmurs fill the empty space and people gasp at the word “vaccination”. A scientific innovation that changed the world is now associated with controversy and dimmed by misconceptions. I would like to take a few moments of your time to go over some concerns surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and provide facts from peer-reviewed journals.
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and I am well aware of how many journalistic practices work — mainly, if the information is controversial or catchy, the outlet makes more money. I urge all of you to think critically about where you are getting your information, then make a decision about what is best for you.
Misconception: The vaccine was rolled out too quickly
A lot of people and media outlets are concerned about the speed in which the COVID vaccine was developed. I get it. Before this year, the fastest vaccine produced was for mumps and it took four years for that to go from inception to access. However, COVID is not necessarily a new virus. Scientists have been researching coronaviruses at least since 2002 when the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic hit China, and reinforced their efforts when the MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) epidemic hit the Middle East in 2012. The viruses in these epidemics have the same structure and belong to the same family as COVID-19, so we had decades of research behind us. Another huge factor in the speed of this vaccine was the gigantic financial backing from all over the world, and the willingness of many volunteers to receive the vaccine in trial phase. Scientists from all over had the time and money to make it happen.
Misconception: The AstraZeneca vaccine was not tested properly
The production of the AstraZeneca vaccine was overseen by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC), which is a government agency that is responsible for developing and producing over 90% of biological substances like antibiotics and medicines that are used around the world. The NIBSC works independently from the manufacturer (AstraZeneca) to ensure the vaccine is safe for use. They did not ever speed up this process of safety testing for the COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine allowed it to “cut in line” in front of other biological substance testing. There is a good overview of their testing here.
As far as their clinical trial testing in humans, the AstraZeneca vaccine entered the Phase 3 Clinical Testing (the final phase of testing) in August of 2020, enrolling 30,000 participants in the United States alone. They also rolled out testing of around 17,000 participants in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. The testing included participants from different age groups and those with different comorbidities (a fancy term for pre-existing conditions like diabetes or obesity). Upon completion, the data revealed that the vaccine was 70% effective after two doses and 64% effective after one dose against symptomatic COVID-19.
Misconception: The vaccine changes your DNA and gives you COVID-19
Okay, this is a big one I’ve heard surrounding the mRNA vaccines, so I wanted to briefly touch upon it. However, the AstraZeneca vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine. Even if it were, I would like to summarize: THE VACCINE DOES NOT ALTER YOUR DNA IN ANY WAY. IT DOES NOT EVEN COME IN TO CONTACT WITH YOUR DNA.
If you are at all interested, there is a really good breakdown video of how the mRNA vaccine works here:
Basically, the mRNA in the vaccine is the blueprints for the unique spike that presents itself on the COVID virus. The ribosomes (the parts of the cell that construct these blueprints) make copies of this spike (note: the mRNA does NOT contain the information for the whole virus, just the spike on the outside of it, so it is impossible for you to contract the virus from the mRNA).
Your immune cells (those cells that fight infections) are then trained to recognise this spike and destroy it the way they are supposed to. The mRNA from the vaccine breaks down and the spikes are eventually all killed off by your immune cells, and then your body can recognize the virus and attack it before the virus has a chance to invade your other cells! Yes, your body can recognise the virus without the vaccine, but it is a much slower response and the virus has more time to spread through the body — making the person much sicker. The video does a much better job of explaining, but I just think it’s amazing. Maybe it’s the nerd in me.
I want to repeat that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine. If you don’t want to read how the AstraZeneca vaccine works, here is a good video that breaks it down and addresses some other concerns:
The AstraZeneca vaccine utilises that same adenovirus technology we have been using for decades. An adenovirus is essentially a weakened generic virus that, in this case, contains the spike found on the COVID-19 virus. This adenovirus (the weakened generic virus) only acts as a transportation device to deliver the spike to your body’s cells. I want to make it clear: this virus does NOT contain the entire COVID-19 virus and CANNOT give you COVID-19. It only contains the identifying spike that your immune cells are trained to attack. Here is the study associated with the vaccine’s creation.
Some people ask: if the vaccine does not give me COVID-19, why am I feeling symptoms after getting the vaccine? This is a good question. Your symptoms are a result of your body responding to a foreign object. Once your immune cells recognise this foreign object, they deploy killer T-cells to destroy it (their purpose is in their name — they kill foreign cells and viruses in the body). This deployment leads to fever, body aches, and typical flu-like symptoms.
Misconception: The AstraZeneca vaccine causes blood clots
I will try to keep this short. Basically, over 20 million people in Europe have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 25 people have reported some sort of blood clot. As of today, a connection has not been made between the two, but for argument’s sake let’s say there is a connection. Twenty-five out of 20 million is 0.0001%. If there is a connection, there is a 0.0001% chance of developing a blood clot as a result of the AstraZeneca vaccine (again, IF there is a connection). I would also like to point out that there is a 0.01% chance of developing a blood clot IN THE GENERAL POPULATION. Based on these numbers, you are actually less likely to get a blood clot as a result of the vaccine than to get a blood clot in general. The European Medicines Agency safety committee even stated that the benefits of getting the vaccine still outweigh the risks.
I genuinely thank you for reading this far in the article. At the end of the day, the choice to vaccinate is yours, but I urge you to look at all the information, including where you are getting that information from, and make an informed decision that is best for you and your community.
I work in medical research, but, quite honestly, it shouldn’t matter what I do because I have cited all my information from reputable sources. If you have additional questions or concerns, please comment and I will try to respond based on research.
The vaccine offers a vision of a brighter future. I want you to ask yourself what taking the vaccine would not only mean for you, but for your community. Lastly, I would like to leave you with this: your choice to give up the last several months of your regular life, being careful and socially distancing, getting a temporarily painful vaccination, could very well be the reason someone else is alive today — and it will always have been worth it.
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