I would have signed up to participate in the original vaccine trials if I had know how to do so. Not that they would have picked me, but I was ready to say “yes” if given the chance. I was willing to be jabbed as soon as one of those biotech outfits starting jabbing.
My parents had classmates who got polio. Now you say “polio” and people wonder what you are talking about! That’s proof that vaccination worked. When you get rid of a disease, people forget about it. Unfortunately they also forget about the remarkable scientific and technical accomplishments that led to eliminating that disease threat.
My mom had whooping cough (pertussis) as a child and almost died. This bacterial disease is widespread but there is a vaccine, the so-called DTap vaccine, which includes diptheria and tetanus. There were 9,000 cases of pertussis in California in 2010, with many hospitalizations and several infant deaths. All of those were preventable with a simple, safe, cheap, and easily-accessible vaccine.
Infant mortality was a fact of life for the human race until very recently. In modern countries the likelihood a child will live to be an adult is very high. That was not the case not that long ago and it is still a problem in developing countries. Every family had children who died of diseases that are now mostly eliminated. Americans don’t remember their own past. Anyone who takes the time to trace their ancestry will inevitably discover that large families were the norm as it was expected that one or more children would get sick and die before adulthood.
Hunger and malnutrition were commonplace, too. Now our biggest issue in the States is too much food. And too much food of dubious nutritional value. We can go to the store and be very picky about which meat we will eat, or even if we’ll eat meat at all. We can demand “organic” produce and cast a dismissive eye on things that don’t meet our stringent personal criteria. Not that long ago people were happy just to get enough food. In some places on the planet people wait in lines for basic stuff like bread.
When you grow up in a wealthy country you forget how lucky you are. The abundance seems limitless. In fact, to survive and thrive you have to be disciplined and not over-indulge. It is so easy to eat too much in this day and age. We throw away enough food to feed entire nations!
I was very fortunate to get the COVID vaccine a little ahead of schedule. I’m only 61 but I have had, as you can see, both of my shots. The creation and distribution of the coronavirus vaccines is a triumph of modern science and medicine. It is something worth highlighting and celebrating. The vaccines are a fantastic accomplishment and are crucial to restoring health and prosperity in the midst of this pandemic. I urge you to go out and get yours as soon as possible.
The Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer, is particularly exciting. The technology uses mRNA, or messenger RNA, and generates an immune response without using an infectious agent. The mRNA vaccines encode for the “spike” protein that the coronavirus uses to attach to cells. When you get the vaccine, you produce antibodies to that protein. If you get a COVID infection, your body now has an immunological “memory” and can fight off the infection. Marvelous stuff. Imagine using this technology to customize therapies against other diseases. With cancers, one typically has to have surgery or get broad-based drug treatments that kill the tumors. These chemicals are hard on your healthy cells. An mRNA vaccine could be designed to be more specific, to target particular cancer cells. That would be an enormous therapeutic improvement.
The way we advance this medical knowledge is by being guinea pigs. People have to volunteer to participate in studies. Once the safety and efficacy of the new treatment is established, it can become part of the standard repertoire of medical practice. The pandemic increased the urgency for a vaccine, and all the vaccines in use are actually on an emergency authorization. The clinical trials weren’t any different, but the government approval process was accelerated. That’s actually proof that the safety systems work. Big Pharma may be experimenting on us, but it’s got a safe, well-designed product. They aren’t experimenting with the safety aspect as that’s been established. No, we are the guinea pigs for the effectiveness part. No one knows for sure how long the immunizations will last or whether the mutations to the virus will render them obsolete. Maybe we’ll have to get an annual shot, like with the flu. Tetanus is one of those things you have to get re-inoculated for—you need a booster every ten years.
Like I said I’m happy to do my part. I signed up for the V-safe follow-up where the CDC collects information on side effects. It’s all done via my phone. The second dose of the Moderna can have some side effects and they would like to get that data. No problem: you stick me and I’ll tell you how it went. I figure side effects are a small price to pay for some significant protection against a nasty new respiratory disease. A nasty new global respiratory disease.
Stay safe out there. And get your shot.