Coronavirus vaccination information, for my friends who express concerns over how quickly the vaccine was developed, from a total lay-person-who-knows-a-bit-of-biology’s perspective. This is NOT written for anti-vaxxers, but for the many friends I’ve had who express skepticism at how quickly this vaccine was developed.
(1) This became THE TOP PRIORITY for every big pharma company, basically overnight. This means there were huge funding boosts to this vaccine (because emergency), huge collaboration efforts, and huge promises of big payoffs ($$$ and fame) for being first. So, there was concentrated firepower straight from the beginning.
(2) Development for this vaccine started BEFORE the virus existed, as it was hypothesized a novel SARS-CoV-2 virus would emerge and cause the havoc it has. I don’t know how or why this was hypothesized, bc I’m not a virologist, but I know that virology is a whole field of study and we know a bit about how viruses evolve so I’m sure someone has put two and two together.
(3) The clinical trials for the vaccines have been expedited, not reduced. That is, MORE people have been allowed in trials SOONER, it is NOT the case that fewer people have been tested, but instead that more people (around 40,000 for Pfizer/BioNTech, 39,000 for moderna I believe) have been allowed to be tested sooner. Again, not necessarily with less paperwork; this is everybody’s TOP concern. There are zero competing interests – everybody wants the vaccine out ASAP. More here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02416-z
(4) The negative backlash of an ineffective or dangerous vaccine would far far far far far outweigh being first to the punch, so it is in nobody’s interest to cut any safety corners.
(5) Side effects: All vaccines come with side effects (my left arm was out of commission for two days after a tetanus shot). Zero (0, zilnch, nada) serious side effects have occurred in any clinical trials. Some people feel crappy for a few days. Some even run a low fever. This is the same for all vaccines.
(6) “It’s a new type of vaccine”: Yes the mRNA is a new kind of vaccine, and one that could be more effective than any that have come before. I don’t claim to understand much, but my basic understanding is instead of a normal vaccine which injects a bit of “deactivated” virus for your body to “learn to fight off” itself, it actually injects mRNA which tells your cells to build a specific disease antigen (a signaller of the actual virus), which prepares your body to fight the actual virus when it encounters it. More here: https://www.phgfoundation.org/briefing/rna-vaccines. My takeaway is if you’re generally ok with vaccines that inject a bit of deactivated virus, this strikes me as a way safer and more intuitive method of inoculation.
(6.5) “I don’t know what’s in it”: You can look up what’s in most vaccines pretty easily, and the COVID vaccine wikipedia page is quite comprehensive: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_vaccine…. Also, we put things into our body all the time that we don’t know what’s in them. I have no idea how vitamins work, but I take a vitamin D tablet every day. Similarly, experts say it’s good for me to eat lots of vegetables and avoid soda, so I do. I have literally no idea what the body chemistry is, but I listen to experts on these counts so no reason not to keep consistent.
(7) “I’ll wait until other people get it to know it’s safe”: Ultimately, you are within your rights if you don’t want to get the vaccine. However, you have to accept that you are putting OTHERS at risk as well as yourself. It is beyond personal risk; just like you’re required to wear a seatbelt because you could be a danger to others, you are a danger to others if you do not protect yourself by getting vaccinated. If you DO refuse to get the vaccine “until it’s safe,” then I recommend you make a plan for WHEN you’ll get the vaccine. Once 60M people have had it? 100M? How will you account for the purposeful misinformation that some people will propagate around the vaccine? When you hear “vaccine horror stories,” how will you critically examine them, knowing some people actively want to scare you out of the vaccine?
As always, if you have questions or corrections to anything I’ve written, please comment or let me know. Nobody is going to tear you down for asking questions, and I know quite a lot of knowledgeable people I’m happy to tag if you want a literal expert opinion.