The most anticipated vaccine

— Hey. What’s up? Let me ask you something.

— When was the last time you got vaccinated?

On my side, the last time was probably around 10–15 years. I am not even sure what for anymore. I didn’t even think about it or knew much, to be honest.

You have probably read or listen somewhere about what is going on. Everyone is talking about the Coronavirus vaccine.

Yes, I get bored with it just as you do. Nevertheless, we must address the elephant in the room and talk about it.

In a few months (probably as early as January next year), big Pharma companies such as Pfizer, Sanofi, etc., will release the first version of the Coronavirus vaccine.

— Are you going to get vaccinated?

— Have you thought about it?

— Is this the best way to contain the virus?

As someone trained in molecular biology, secret lover of immunology, and passionate about how my body works, I am obliged to share my knowledge in this matter concisely to make your own choice and know the facts about what is going on. In the following paragraphs (if you are courageous enough to finish reading the whole article), I will narrate and explain the information I gathered from online sources, especially of a podcast from Peter Attia MD (who I highly recommend). Peter is a trained medical doctor and knows how drug development pipelines work. He is also a bright communicator and much, much more.

Word of advice: There will be some science, but I promise to keep it concise and encourage you to understand it. Even if you never liked biology. ;)

The latest news regarding the vaccine came from one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer. They confirmed the approval of their vaccine by the FDA (Food Drug Administration). You can think of the FDA as the ultimate decision-maker about whether a vaccine or medicine will be released in the market for people to have access to it.

Pfizer announced the release of their vaccine after only about a year (12 months) of research. That’s fast. Very, very fast. With the help of governments subsidizing the necessary funds to accelerate the vaccine’s approval (something done a very few times before), resources flooded towards developing a potent antidote for Coronavirus.

The thing is, most people don’t know that the pipeline to get a vaccine out in the market costs 1 billion US dollars (yes, 1 billion!) and takes at least 15 years!

OK, so the government pays for it, that’s cool. It helps, and we can accelerate the process, but those fifteen years are not for nothing!

Let’s say you want to get a vaccine out in the market. First, you need to find a candidate molecule or protein (called an antigen). The presence of this molecule triggers an immune response so that the body can create antibodies specific to the virus. Once you have your candidate molecule, you would go through:

  • Pre-clinical trials. During this time, you test your molecule on animal models (usually rats) to observe possible side effects, immune response, and basically, if the rats don’t die, and generate antibodies. You are now ready to go to:
  • Phase 1 clinical trials, where you can test your candidate molecule in a small group of humans (usually between 20–100 people). This phase is used to determine the correct dosage. The rule of thumb is to start low and increase the dose slowly to avoid triggering an unwanted response.

Still there? OK, so now, after Phase 1 clinical trials, you have found a candidate molecule, you have tested the molecule on animals, and you have determined an appropriate dose after testing it in a small group of humans. All that usually takes around three years. Next, on the pipeline:

  • Phase 2 clinical trials. This phase aims to test it on hundreds of people, testing safety and short-to-medium term side effects. Finally, we arrive at:
  • Phase 3 clinical trials, where you would test on population size. At least 10 000 subjects are necessary. Half of your population control size will use a placebo vaccine that doesn’t trigger an immune response, and the other half the vaccine you developed. You would run statistical analysis and long-term tests to validate the vaccine’s use as safe, effective, and with no side effects.

Finally, you are eligible to be approved by the FDA and release your vaccine to the market…. Phewww. All of this, as mentioned before, takes around 15–20 years.

I want to pause a little bit our story and mention something interesting about the Rotavirus. The Rotavirus is a similar virus as the Coronavirus except for some technicalities, but it is enough to illustrate my point. The first vaccine for Rotavirus was released to the market in 1998 but taken out in 1999 because it caused disturbing side effects. The FDA approved another Rotavirus vaccine seven years later, in 2006. Before releasing a safe and effective vaccine to the public, at least 50 years of work were needed.

— Is it possible that this time we can release one safe and effective Coronavirus vaccine after only one year?

However, not everything is as bad as it sounds. Let me explain to you something; there are several ways of producing a vaccine that generates the immune response you want. Some courses take more time and research, and others are relatively faster. Nowadays, a new method of vaccine development has increased in popularity: Single-stranded mRNA vaccines.

mRNA refers to messenger RNA; this type of nucleic acid is similar to DNA because it shares some of its building blocks and is a vehicle to carry information. DNA is a stable, double-stranded (formed by two intertwined strands) nucleic acid present in the nucleus of the cell and carries all your genetic code as well as the code to produce mRNA. mRNA or messenger RNA is single-stranded, unstable, and present in the cytoplasm of the cell; it carries the message of DNA out of the nucleus of the cell towards the cytoplasm (exterior of the cell) so specialized proteins can decode it and produce more proteins that are necessary for the correct function of the cell. You can imagine it as DNA being the master code (with two-strands), and mRNA being a single-stranded, short script that carries a short message that gets translated into protein by a little protein called the ribosome.

mRNA vaccines are becoming increasingly used because of its rapid development. Pfizer vaccine for Coronavirus is mRNA vaccine. This type of vaccine works by injecting the patients with ss (single-stranded) mRNA into their muscle cell, where the cell will take up this ss mRNA that carries the code that will be read by the ribosomes. This unique ss mRNA comes from the Coronavirus DNA sequence that codes for the antigen recognized by the surface of our immune cells (called macrophages and antigen-presenting cells). In a nutshell, the vaccine introduces into the patients’ native cells the instructions to produce a particular protein that triggers an immune response and generates cells capable of memorizing this protein if it appears again (in the case of an infection) and having enough reservoir of antibodies to fight the disease.

This type of vaccine can work and shouldn’t pose such a significant risk in terms of side effects (hopefully). Still, there’s this to know: mRNA is extremely unstable, mRNA vaccines need superhuman efforts in logistics to be able to ship them at -80°C in dry ice in less than 24 hours everywhere in the world. Otherwise, after 24 hours, they are useless (also useless if not stored at -80°C). And, if we need to ship millions of vaccines, is this method going to be effective?

So far, we have explored clinical trial timelines, presented a similar case in that of the Rotavirus, and explained how the Coronavirus vaccine works in your body. I think it’s time to ask ourselves if we should get it or not.

I don’t think the answer is easy. First, as explained before, companies have rushed towards developing a vaccine by skipping crucial stages to ensure an antidote’s safety and effectiveness. On the other hand, this type of mRNA vaccine should not cause many side effects just by how it works in your body and how after a few weeks/months, it will probably need another vaccine shot to stay active in your system. Another critical point is the logistics involved with the shipment and storage of the vaccine. mRNA is very unstable and needs to be kept at -80°C; otherwise, it becomes obsolete. It’s still not clear to me how companies will overcome this issue.

— Aren’t we trying to run before knowing how to walk first?

It’s worth noticing that 26% of the population is between 0–21 years old. And that less than 0.06% of Coronavirus deaths affected this group age. That is about one death in about 2'000 total cases. People between 21–44 years old represent approximately 3.5% of deaths from the virus, and people who are 65 years old or more represented more than 75% of the deaths. This raises another question:

— Should children get vaccinated?

By now, you should probably have more questions than answers. That’s good. That’s what I wanted. I encourage you to ask questions and think about why you would or would not want to vaccinate yourself (if given the situation) because it’s your choice and responsibility. For example, you can research the type of vaccine available in your country and how it works in your body. You can investigate online the completed clinical trials and secondary side effects.

My take on this.

I promised myself to respect any choice you make. If you are curious to have my take on the issue, please read ahead. If you don’t, thank you for reading it through the end. I hope I can at least inspire you to ask questions and be curious about the world. To question beliefs, to challenge yourself, and to take responsibility for your own health. It is not your parent’s or doctor’s body. It is YOUR body.

OK, so here is my take on it: I will NOT get vaccinated. Not now, not in ten years. Maybe after 15 years I will consider it… just kidding ;)

I will not get the vaccine — end of the story.

We must learn to harness the power of our bodies and immune system! We have inside and within us the most adaptable and powerful biological system in the world! We, humans, are able to withstand the coldest waters, the hottest desert, the harshest conditions because we are adaptable. Our own immune system can fight any disease when working correctly.

I invite you to take responsibility for your own health.

I am, and I am my own best experiment. Biohacking|Self-discovery|Awareness seeker

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Rafael Rolli

Rafael Rolli

I am, and I am my own best experiment. Biohacking|Self-discovery|Awareness seeker

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