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Pineta


Particle Physics and Pony Fiction Experimentalist

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Dec
23rd
2020

Vaccine Boost · 6:34pm Dec 23rd, 2020

It’s been a rubbish year. And there is still potential for it to get even worse as Covid cases keep rising, a new more contagious variety appears, and Brexit is going as well as expected. Let’s try to find some good news. It has been a really super-exciting year for vaccine science. The Covid vaccines mean we can be optimistic that life will return to some sort of normal over the next year, and they demonstrate exciting new advances in medical science that will let us beat this and future pandemics.

When I chatted with biochemists earlier in the year, they were cautious, and sometimes gloomy. They pointed out that it takes years to develop a vaccine and test it to make sure it is safe. Then you need a long campaign of mass vaccinations to eradicate an infectious disease… A covid vaccine would not instantly fix everything... It is encouraging to see that there is more optimism. Although there is still a lot of uncertainly about what will happen next, the fact that several vaccines have been developed, and shown to be effective, means we have passed a major hurdle.

Traditionally vaccines were a weak or dead version of a virus. When injected, this trained your immune system to recognise its signature so that if you then became infected you had the antibodies ready to target and destroy the invader. More recent vaccines do this just with an identifying part of the virus—a protein antigen. For Covid-19 vaccines, this is the club-like spike protein on its outer coat.


Sources: 1,2

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now approved and now in limited use in the US and Europe, uses an exciting new approach. This mRNA vaccine contains segments of messenger RNA containing the genetic code for the spike protein. Once injected, these enter your cells, which then make copies of the spikes. With no virus attached, they are harmless, but they trigger your immune system to make the antibodies to protect you from the real thing. This approach could be the technology of the future, allowing a vaccine to be developed and manufactured very quickly once a new disease agent has been identified just from its genetic code. The new challenge is that due to the fragility of mRNA, it has to be kept at an ultra frosty –70°C, requiring carefully organised supply chains.

The Oxford vaccine ChAdOx1 is the one I hear the most about from internal university news. Understandably this is getting more attention than my particle physics videos at the moment. This was adapted from a vaccine toolkit engineered from a chimpanzee common cold virus. The virus was modified so it can’t infect people, but is used to transport genetic material into your cells. By adding the genetic code for the spike protein, it can be used to make your body produce the antigens to train your immune system. This one has the advantage that it doesn’t need to be kept super cold, and is being offered at production cost, which could be key to making it available worldwide. Yay for publicly funded Not-For-Profit research!

That’s just two. There are other vaccines with similar stories. The genetic engineering is the exciting bit, but there has also been a huge number of people working on the logistics of manufacturing all the doses, and recruiting and screening volunteers for all the tests that have to be done to check its safe and see how well it works. It’s great to be the point where vaccines have been approved and are reaching vulnerable people. Of course, there is still a long way to go until the pandemic will be over.

One possible problem which is starting to be discussed more and more, as the endgame scenarios emerge, is the Antivaxers. (Sigh). Beating the virus will require a mass vaccination programme, giving immunity to a sufficiently high percentage of society that any future outbreak will just fizzle out as there are too few potential targets within reach. If too many idiots refuse to get vaccinated, could this keep the virus alive?

The nature of vaccine scepticism has changed. Twenty years ago, the challenge was to reassure fearful and confused parents that the MMR vaccine was not going to give their children autism, as a flawed study of a small number of cases by a rogue practitioner had been refuted by detailed studies of millions of cases that had failed to see a link. Now the problem is to persuade several million internet users that that YouTube video showing how the symptoms attributed to COVID are caused by G5 phone masts and the vaccine is a plot by Bill Gates to implant microchips in people is not true.

Even if you don’t care about the social responsibility argument, it doesn’t need much rational logic to see that it is in your self interest to get vaccinated. This gives you protection against a disease that has spread worldwide and killed over a million people. This benefit rather outweighs the risk of some side effect not identified in the clinical trials.

And the possibility that it’s all a conspiracy to let Bill Gates take control of my brain for nefarious purposes? Yeah, I’ll risk it.

Report Pineta · 474 views · #Covid #vaccine
Comments ( 20 )

Another solid post and I know I'm planning on getting jabbed as soon as it's available to me as are my roommate and my family. Thankfully there are no anti-vaxxers in my life.

Another potential problem if people campaign against the program: Isn't there also a risk in delaying the anti-viral vaccine distribution? Viruses are notoriously quick to mutate into new strains, so if it takes too long to get the required proportion of the population vaccinated, a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 could emerge that's able to resist it or become outright immune, rendering the vaccines less effective.

And the possibility that it’s all a conspiracy to let Bill Gates take control of my brain for nefarious purposes?

I'd be really interested in the neurochemical mechanics of whatever is supposed to be able to turn a vaccine into a mind-controlling drug, but I remain skeptical that such an explanation will be provided by anyone who actually knows the subject well.

The closest I can think of in nature is the cordyceps fungus, which can successfully induce small insects into going out to the open, and even then that probably owes more to how relatively simple an ant brain is to manipulate than to the complex powers of the fungus. That only works, I think, by inhaling the spore, definitely not by intravenous injection.

Mood-altering drugs would be my next best guess, but they tend to be incredibly crude and gross in their effects.

the MMR vaccine was not going to give their children autism

Autistic here, 9.5/10 would be vaccinated again, not a fan of needles though. :twilightblush:

5420666
Brain worms, of course. :derpyderp1:

I trust the Brave and Glorious Spike proteins to protect me :moustache:

Seriously speaking, though. I am a supporter of vaccination, but I do side with the biochemists' skepticism about the COVID vaccine. Both my parents have worked in biotech before, so they understand how medicines are actually developed. There may some long-term effects of the vaccine that we simply don't know about due to the accelerated development.

And as 5420661 pointed out, the virus can (and has) mutate rapidly and render the current vaccines useless. (Alternatively, it may be a yearly vaccine like the flu shot.)

It puzzles me that (at least in USA) people are more skeptical about mask-wearing than they are about taking this brand-new vaccine.

Witness, my friend! :twilightsmile:

There are depressing amounts of conspiracy theorists and denialists on the social media these days. I'm trying to do my part to counteract that stuff, by reporting posts containing fake news and conspiracy bullshit, and providing rebuttals and citations when people spread antivaxx nonsense and similar.

Also, have a good holiday season, and enjoy a good Hearth's Warming! :yay:

Antivaxers. (Sigh).

Yep, that pretty much covers it. Yesterday I heard a doctor from Harvard Medical Center urge the "medical community" to prepare for Covid-19 becoming an endemic disease. This was because he believes that the general population is so driven by superstition that not enough of them will get the vaccine to achieve herd immunity. The attending physicians and hospital administrators didn't quite seem convinced, but I couldn't help remembering the old saying, "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."

5420661
The mRNA vaccines are based on the spike proteins on the capsid that allows entry into human cells rather than the virus itself, so most mutations that would affect the spike would be self-defeating. Think of it as a vaccine against trucks that carry groceries to the supermarkets. It doesn't matter if the food inside mutates from lettuce into bacon, the truck is still going to be affected by the vaccine. If the truck itself mutates into something else... chances are it won't be able to drive to the store.

BTW, this is why this vaccine was developed so quickly. The groundwork for anti-coronavirus vaccines has been going on for 30 years. The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine took only two months* to create! (The rest of the time before approval was because of the safety and efficacy trials.)

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* EDIT: I was mistaken, the time it took for Moderna to develop the Covid-19 specific vaccine was two DAYS! See: It Took Two Days to Develop Moderna’s Vaccine

5420685
See my comments to Impossible Numbers above. The basis of the mRNA anti-coronavirus vaccines has been under development for 30 years. It's because of all that previous work that they were able to be made so quickly. They really aren't a rush-job.

5420661
5420685
I’m no expert on this. I get the impression that now we have several successful vaccines, the teams behind these are more hopeful that it won’t mutate in a way that makes the vaccine useless, and if it does, it won’t be too hard to adapt. But we don’t know for sure, and it’s a very real concern.

5420666
5420683
I don’t think there is any more logical mechanism behind this than behind the claimed links between G5 and coronavirus. The people making these theories are not unlike fan fiction writers. They are creating crazy stories, and putting out whatever will get them hits. Scientific plausibility is of secondary importance. So yeah, why not brain worms?

5420757

Think of it as a vaccine against trucks that carry groceries to the supermarkets. It doesn't matter if the food inside mutates from lettuce into bacon, the truck is still going to be affected by the vaccine. If the truck itself mutates into something else... chances are it won't be able to drive to the store.

That’s a very good example of using a nice metaphor to effectively communicate a scientific concept. 👍:twilightsmile:

5420757
Two days. Damn. I don't know if that's inspiring or not. Thanks for posting the link.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Dear Bill Gates, please assume control of my brain as you inject your vaccine directly into my eyeballs, as I would like to just not think or feel for a little bit, and that is all I want for Christmas, thanks.

5420757 "The groundwork for anti-coronavirus vaccines has been going on for 30 years." And quite likely if not for Operation Warp Speed, the development of these vaccines would have gone on for another 30 years before being approved by the FDA. The government process for vaccine development has been clogged by lawsuits and well-meaning politicians since the beginning, and looks far more like it tries to *prevent* any progress than promote it.

Warp Speed chopped straight across all those lines of red tape while still holding back enough to keep the process safe. And to make matters even better, it proved the mRNA process works, so if we wind up with a real deadly virus in the near future with true pandemic potential, we could in theory ram out several thousand shots to (I forget the term for 'vaccinate everybody who might have had contact with a case') right now and squish the growth of such cases immediately.

Our family is getting our shots as soon as they're available. Thank you to all the drug companies and Operation Warp Speed participants.

5420989
Bruh just do ketamine like the rest of us

5420685

It puzzles me that (at least in USA) people are more skeptical about mask-wearing than they are about taking this brand-new vaccine.

Ooo, I can answer this one! Masks protect other people more than yourself, and thus as extremely mild inconveniences, conservative individualist Americans see them as an affront to their personal freedom and liberty, with a side of “I’m a strong red-blooded American! Ain’t no virus gonna kick my ass!” *proceeds to spout grossly incorrect statistics about 99.99% of people surviving Covid.*

Vaccines protect the people who get them, which jives well with our capitalist survival of the fittest, “screw you, I got mine” mindset here.

Why yes, I do hate conservatives. (I hate liberals too, but for other reasons and very slightly less.)

5420685 As I understand it, the studies on masks have looked at people like nurses properly wearing masks. I've heard some legitimate concern that people improperly wearing masks (such as touching all over all sides of them without washing their hands, and reusing them without washing the masks) might be worse than people not wearing masks at all.

Of course, if you're actually wearing a mask properly, studies do show that's pretty clearly a good thing.

5420666 5420780 I would think that there'd be microscopic robots mixed in with the vaccine that'd get into your bloodstream and interface with your brain to influence your thoughts. Perhaps they'd even be able to spread out tiny radio antennas to pick up new signals from the Gates Foundation.

(Why yes, I have been thinking about supervillain-style plots. All in the good cause of story planning!)

5421006
The Pfizer/Biontech vaccine was developed in Germany with funding from the German government and is produced in Belgium. Pfizer themselves pointed out they weren't part of Warpspeed - specifically to avoid this kind of politicising. Covid vaccines were moved to the front of the admin queue everywhere in the world and given unprecedented access to funding and resources. The actual development cycle wasn't changed in any way... goes to show what can be accomplished when the political will is there and science gets the support it needs and the researchers aren't bogged down by the endless search for funding and administrative work actual admin professionals should be doing.

It was 1 hell of a month in the USA, so missed this; you may have heard. For you it has been 1 hell of a month with BrExit and new strain of SARSCoV2. At least we have vaccines now.

¿What do you think about "1st Dose 1st". it seems like a good idea:

The 1st dose brings up to 80% protection. The 2nd dose at least 3 weeks later boosts the immune response to 95%. The thing is that the booster needs to be 3 weeks later or more. Because of the "More", it makes sense to me to give al the 1st dose before starting 2nd doses.

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