mRNA Vaccines

I’m going to co-mingle this blog into vaccines and mRNA as it relates to SARS-Cov-2 because there’s a long history of both aspects leading to Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines.

Records of the common cold date back to the 16th century. Reference to symptoms and treatments for influenza can be found in Gunn’s New Family Physician, 1887 (“200th”) edition. The common cold is considered to be mild, usually beginning with a sore throat, and lasts for a few days.  Whereas influenza is more severe with symptoms lasting up to weeks from several hundred viruses. Already familiar with the smallpox vaccine, scientists developed an influenza vaccine after the 1918 Pandemic in 1938 which was given to military personnel during World War II and the public at large in 1945.

Medical students and residents have been taught that an injection becomes a vaccine if it gives you antibody immunity to a specific virus or single bacterium. It’s a vaccine if you are protected from getting a virus or bacterial infection when you get this injection. An injection becomes a vaccine if it reduces death from that virus or bacteria, reduces hospitalizations, and reduces severe symptoms from that bacterial or viral infection. Finally, it’s considered an effective vaccination if you no longer carry the bacteria or virus, so you cannot transmit it to another person. I’m certain you can think of many vaccines which meet those 6 criteria.  So, when the COVID-19 vaccines were introduced, it only seemed natural that everyone would have the same expectations.

Operation Warp Speed was focused on reducing severe symptoms requiring hospitalization and deaths from SARS-Cov-2. Under the Emergency Use Authorization (more on EUA in next blog) the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID 19 vaccine using lipid nanoparticles and mRNA was available to individuals 16 years old and older on December 11, 2020, and approved by the FDA on August 23, 2021.

Pfizer filed the first spike protein vaccine on coronavirus in 1990. The mRNA feature of their latest vaccine is interesting because mRNA (messenger RNA) is a natural component of our immune response. RNA (ribonucleic acid) was discovered in the nucleus of cells by a Swiss chemist named Friedrich Miescler in 1838.  In the 1970’s a discovery was made of DNA’s (deoxyribonucleic acid) amino acids adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine sequencing which mirrored the sequences of RNA’s amino acids, (except RNA’s bases are uracil and cytosine rather than DNA’s thymine and cytosine). Whenever there is any cellular disruption, mRNA, like a spark, signals for resumed amino acid balance. (Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins.) In a sense, this natural process supports the ancient wisdom that the body wants to heal itself.

 The concept of genetically developing an mRNA to induce a “spike” protein to stimulate an immune response is brilliant and can also be disturbing with its presence. Yes, it theoretically could reduce severe symptoms requiring hospitalization and prevent deaths. However, since viruses are known to mutate, will the specificity to SARS-COV-2 be sustainable, and for what duration? Pfizer has completed Phase 3 clinical trials. What are the adverse effects of this mRNA vaccine?  Phase 4 post-market surveillance and adverse event reporting are optional.

Of further note, shortly after August 23, 2021,  CDC changed the definition for a vaccine to a preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases and vaccination is for protection, thus modulating the original purposes for vaccines.

The next blog will focus on the EUA

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