COVID vaccine will be different from common vaccines
The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech have announced their vaccine is 90% protective against the COVID-19 virus in phase 3 trials. This is great news because this pandemic is not going to end until enough of the population is immune to the virus. This is different from advocating simple "herd immunity," which would result in many deaths and long-term medical illnesses for numerous people.
Widespread use of an effective vaccine creates "herd immunity" without the suffering associated with everyone having to contract the virus. However, no matter how effective the vaccine, if people do not get it, this pandemic will last for a very long time.
There is always some fear over a vaccine. Sometimes that fear is well founded and other times not. Much of the fear over vaccines can be divided into two worries: being injected with a live virus and contracting the disease; being injected with a dead virus that contains virus-killing compounds like mercury -- and becoming ill from virus-killing compounds.
These arguments all have some validity. This Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine puts both of these arguments to rest because neither a virus (alive or dead) nor toxic chemicals are being used.
Using a new technology (mRNA vaccine), no virus is in the actual vaccine. All human cells use DNA to make messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules. mRNA is the template for the cell to make proteins. An mRNA strand coding for a virus-specific antigen is used as the vaccine.
Once the mRNA strand is inside the body's cells, the cells use this genetic information to produce this specific antigen on the cell's surface. This antigen causes the immune system to react, creating immunity. In the case of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, the mRNA is coated with fat and this fat capsule encourages entry into the human cells. With this new technology there is no risk of becoming infected by the virus and no anti-viral compounds like mercury are used.
Vaccines produced the traditional way using a weakened or killed virus take years to develop. This new technology allows an effective vaccine to be made within months, as we are seeing now.
It is important to realize that the number of pandemics have increased over the past 20 years. For a variety of reasons, we will continue to see more pandemics in the years to come. It is impossible right now to swiftly discover enough medicines that will be effective against fresh pandemics. Therefore, vaccines are our best bet -- especially using mRNA vaccine technology.
I am a big fan of doing everything possible to enhance the innate immune system to fight infections. However, I also realize that ignoring effective technology is unwise. In these times, we need to utilize as many tools as are available. So, do what you can to make the immune system responsive and that will probably also make the vaccine even more effective.
• Dr. Patrick Massey is president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village.