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COVID-19 Vaccine: mRNA Molecule Is the Hero We Needed

A lot of misinformation has been propagated during the past year-plus regarding SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus) and the subsequent COVID-19 vaccine. Whether you lean left or right, are from Venus or Mars, the mRNA-based vaccine is not a tracking device, nor will it alter your DNA.

After clinical trials, the FDA greenlighted two mRNA-centric vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, for Emergency Use Authorization. Both of these require two shots. (Johnson & Johnson – the one-shot vaccine – relies on a disabled adenovirus.) Unlike traditional vaccines that inject weakened or inactivated germs into our bodies, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to triggers an immune response.

This is key: mRNA – messenger ribonucleic acid – is not the same as DNA and cannot be combined with DNA to change your genetic code. The mRNA is fragile, so after it delivers the instructions to your cells, it breaks down and disappears from the body (in about 72 hours). The mRNA does not go into the nucleus of the cell – the part that contains your DNA. [1]

OK, so what is messenger ribonucleic acid? First described in 1956 by scientists Elliot Volkin and Lazarus Astrachan, the mRNA molecule carries codes from the DNA in the nucleus to protein production sites in the ribosomes. Five years later, scientists Sydney Brenner and James Watson isolated mRNA molecules.

DNA-encoded genes are transcribed into snippets of RNA. The mRNA molecules then oversee the assembly of a specific protein. For more than 30 years, scientists tried to crack the mRNA code; the immune system destroyed the engineered mRNA that researchers attempted to introduce into the body.

But in 2005, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman tweaked a synthetic mRNA molecule. They were able to get into human cells without the immune system going into attack mode. Keeping the body from killing the mRNA molecule was paramount for the vaccines that stemmed the tide of the 2020 pandemic. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, the mRNA stimulates an immune response to protect against infection.

(Fun fact: Moderna initially focused on using mRNA to develop personalized cancer treatments more than 10 years ago. Immunotherapy is rooted in coding mRNA to produce molecules to identify and kill cancer cells.)

For those who believe the COVID-19 vaccines are part of a larger 5G conspiracy, these are the ingredients: [2]

Pfizer-BioNTech

  • mRNA – the only active ingredient
  • Lipids – ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis, (2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-snglycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol
  • Salts – potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
  • Sugar – helps the molecules maintain their shape during freezing

Moderna

  • mRNA
  • Lipids – SM-102, 1,2-dimyristoyl-rac-glycero3-methoxypolyethylene glycol-2000 [PEG2000-DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]
  • Acid – acetic acid
  • Acid Stabilizers – tromethamine and tromethamine hydrochloride
  • Salt – sodium acetate
  • Sugar

Johnson & Johnson

  • Adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein
  • Acid – citric acid monohydrate
  • Salt – trisodium citrate dihydrate
  • Sugars – 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD) and polysorbate-80, sodium chloride
  • Ethanol

Still, a question remains: Will we reach “herd immunity” with the vaccines – infections + percent of the population vaccinated > 60%. According to the CDC Tracker, more than 120 million people have received a first dose of a vaccine, which is about 36% of the U.S. population. (About 74 million people have been fully vaccinated.) [3]

Now that you have a primer on the COVID-19 vaccine, the takeaways are that these mRNA vaccines have been clinically tested, the technology is not “new,” the vaccines do not contain a live virus, and mRNA from the vaccine does not affect or interact with DNA.

Also, mRNA vaccines are not live vaccines; they do not use an infectious element. These vaccines carry no risk of causing disease in the person vaccinated.

Arming yourself with science-based information is the best way to decide to keep you and your loved ones safe from the coronavirus.

ALSO: How a scientist’s unwavering belief in mRNA gave the world a Covid-19 vaccine

 

Citations

[1] What’s Different About Messenger RNA (mRNA) Vaccines for COVID-19? https://www.mskcc.org/coronavirus/what-s-different-about-messenger-rna-vaccines-covid-19

[2] A Simple Breakdown of the Ingredients in the COVID Vaccines. https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2021/01/11/a-simple-breakdown-of-the-ingredients-in-the-covid-vaccines/

[3] COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations