Worried about the new COVID-19 vaccines?

My Moderna COVID-19 vaccine sticker. Photo by Mark Stewart

Two weeks ago, I got my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. I felt bad, but for a different reason than you might think.

Today, we have effective vaccines targeting over 20 infections. Some infections can lead to cancer. Vaccines for HPV and Hepatitis B have significantly reduced the incidence of cervical cancer and liver cancer, respectively. So, yeah, I believe in vaccines.

But I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about these new COVID-19 vaccines which seemed to have popped out overnight.  

Are they safe?

To alarm our immune system, older vaccines use weakened/dead viruses or part of the virus. The first two FDA-approved vaccines use a new technology. They deliver a sliver of genetic material that codes for just one protein – the spikes on the COVID-19 virus.

These vaccines are like a recipe card.

Only our body has the means to make the recipe. These vaccines can’t make other stuff, transmit diseases, or mess with our genetic material. They’re too damn simple.

A transient messenger, this recipe card degrades naturally in days.

And the technology has been in development for decades. Thirty years ago, a prototype was injected into the muscles of mice and successfully made the protein as directed. COVID-19 is the first human opportunity to use it.

What about the side effects?

Reactions to vaccines are to be expected. So far, millions have received the vaccines; there are 29 cases of severe allergies – all recovered. But just yesterday (Jan. 14, 2021) alone, 3,793 people died of COVID-19 in the U.S. I don’t even know where to begin to compare these numbers.

The experts are carefully tracking some 20 different vaccine reactions. Some real, some not. They’re not alarmed, so I’m not either.

What about mutations?

Mutations have caused lockdowns in multiple countries. In Denmark, tens of millions of minks were culled to contain a mutated COVID-19 virus.  

First, did you know Denmark is (or was) the No. 1 mink pelt producer in the world? I didn’t.

Mutations can be bad if the virus becomes more transmissible or deadly. But mutations are less of a concern for vaccines. Vaccines trigger not just one but multiple defense mechanisms; therefore, it’s much harder to fool them with mutations.

You might’ve seen Dr. Fauci getting his vaccine on live TV. He rolled up his sleeve and asserted emphatically, “I have extreme confidence in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine.”

Mine had less fanfare. I waited in line for 40 minutes, 15 minutes out in the cold drizzle. The shot was nothing. My injection site ached and itched for a few days, and I forgot all about it.

So why did I feel bad? I felt guilty about taking up a precious dose before my mom, who is 87; my patients; and the nice man who let me skip ahead in the Aldi checkout line yesterday.

I love them, and I don’t mind being their guinea pig.

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 10:01 AM, 01.19.2021