Covid-19 Vaccine | To Take or Not

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Many people are concerned about taking the Covid-19 vaccine. While I am not an anti vaxxer per say, I have never taken a flu shot in my life. And for the last 11 years I have not had so much as a simple cold, let alone a fever, sore throat or a cough.  But perhaps it is time reconsider taking at least the Covid-19 vaccine.

People do have legitimate concerns about vaccines. I first got concerned about vaccines when I was running my own preschool. I noticed an alarming levels of autistic children in my school, as well as severe behavioral issues. Finally I came to the conclusion it had to be the vaccines these young children were receiving. Many of the vaccines were combined into a single dose which in my opinion was too much of a load for a tiny child. So I advised my parents to space out the vaccines into single doses instead of taking a combination vaccine. Yes, it was more of a bother as the number of Doctor visits increased. But it seems to improve the outcomes. I had less children with problems.

Admittedly this is anecdotal evidence. Big pharma will not do research to provide something that will hurt their business. Over the years we have had vaccine inflation. According this NCBI article “Between 1938 and 1985, five vaccines (three childhood and two adult) comprising nine different antigens were available. In the next 15 years, the number of recommended vaccines more than doubled”. When governments will not pay for the care of an autistic child, parents have every right to very careful.

The 4 Types of Covid-19 vaccines


There are four main ways the Covid-19 vaccines are being developed.

1. RNA or mRNA Vaccine

This is a synthetic version of the virus’s messenger RNA. When injected into our bodies, cells read it as an instruction to start building the Covid-19′s ‘spike’ protein. This prompts our immune system to respond, and in doing so it learns how to protect against future Covid-19 infections.

Manufactures: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna
Doses required: Pfizer-BioNTech -2 doses at least 21 days apart | Moderna – 2 doses 28 days apart
Effectiveness: 90%
Storage: Pfizer-BioNTech – minus 70°C and 2-8° C for up to 5 days?Moderna -minus ° for 6 months and 2-8°C for 30 days
Advantages: Good safety since there are no live components, there’s no risk of the vaccine triggering disease, reliable, and easy to manufacture.
Disadvantages: Unintended immune reaction), ensuring effective delivery into the body since free RNA in the body is quickly broken down, needs very cold storage conditions, has never previously been used.
Other vaccines that use this technology : None. New Technology never been used on humans.

2. Viral Vector Vaccine

A safe, modified version of the virus to deliver genetic code for the antigen. Once the body’s cells are infected the cells are instructed to produce a large number of antigens, a substance that triggers an immune response

Manufactures: Oxford-AstraZeneca, CanSino Biologics, Gamaleya Research Institute,Janssen, Sputnik V
Doses : 1-3
Effectiveness: 62.1-90%
Storage : 2-8°C
Advantages: Viral vector-based vaccination is a well-established technology that can trigger a strong immune response as it also involves both B cells and T cells.
Disadvantages: Previous exposure to the vector could reduce effectiveness, difficult and expensive to manufacture
Other vaccines that use this technology: Ebola vaccine

3. Whole Virus Vaccine

The vaccine is made either by inactivating it by exposing it to heat, chemicals or radiation or by making it artificially to closely resemble the real virus. Either way the virus is not active and not infectious, meaning it cannot replicate.
Manufactures: Sinovac (Inactivated)/Bharat Biotech (Inactivated)?Sinopharm (Inactvated?Medicago inc?(Virus Like particle)
Doses: 2
Effectiveness: 57%
Storage: 2-8°C
Advantages: The technology is well known, good for people with compromised immune systems, and simple to manufacture.
Disadvantages: Booster shots maybe required
Other vaccines that use this technology: HPV/cervical cancer vaccine.

4. Protein Subunit Vaccines

A small piece of the virus’ genetic code is inserted into another cell like bacterial, yeast, mammalian or insect cell in the lab to make lots of it. It is then extracted and purified and then injected into humans at which time the body will mount an immune response.
Manufactures:  Novavax?Chinese Academy of Sciences
Doses: 2
Effectiveness: Unknown. 
Storage: 2-8°C
Advantages: Well-established technology, suitable for those with compromised immune systems.
Disadvantages: This type of vaccine is relatively complex to manufacture, additional adjuvants and booster shots may be required.
Other vaccines that use this technology : Hepatitis B

What are the ingredients in the Covid-19 Vaccine?


Many people rightfully have concerns about what is in a vaccine. Some believe it causes autism. The DTP vaccine is thought to be linked neurological diseases. Others think the flu vaccine is pointless because it cannot protect against all diseases. Given a typical vaccine is at most 60% effective they do have a point. Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that was thought to cause autism has raised concerns. Maybe that is why it now only used in some flu vaccines. The US medical industry has a storied history of medical malfeasance from Oxycontin to medical kickbacks for doctors to prescribe certain medications. It’s no wonder people have lost trust.

Having said all that, the ingredients in the Covid-19 vaccine seems pretty Benign.  Here what is in it.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine ingredients:

  • 30mg of a nucleoside modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2. mRNA (Messenger ribonucleic acid) is the active ingredient in the vaccine. Some say mRNA will alter our DNA. But this does not happen because mRNA apparently never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is stored. Once the viral protein is made, the body breaks down the mRNA and gets rid of it.
  • Lipids – The following lipids are in the new COVID vaccine. Their main role is to protect the mRNA and provide somewhat of a “greasy” exterior that helps the mRNA slide inside the cells. - (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis, (2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-snglycero-3- phosphocholine
  • 0.2 mg Cholesterol
  • Salts –Help balance the acidity in your body – 0.01 mg potassium chloride, 0.01mg monobasic potassium phosphate, 0.36mg sodium chloride, 0.07mg dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate.
  • 6mg Sucrose (sugar) –This ingredient helps the molecules maintain their shape during freezing.

The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine ingredients:

  • mRNA (Messenger ribonucleic acid) is the active ingredient in the vaccine.
  • Lipids – SM-102, PEG2000-DMG, 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC)
  • Cholesterol
  • Salts – Tromethamine (tris), Sodium acetate
  • 6mg Sucrose (sugar) –This ingredient helps the molecules maintain their shape during freezing.

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine ingredients:

  • Weakened adenovirus encoding the SARS CoV 2 Spike glycoprotein
  • L-histidine
  • L-histidine hydrochloride monohydrate
  • magnesium chloride hexahydrate
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Ethanol
  • Sucrose
  • Sodium chloride
  • Disodium edetate dihydrate
  • Water for injections

Ingredients in other vaccines like Sputnik, Sinovac and others

  • Unknown at the moment.

As you can see most of the ingredients seem harmless. Some say mRNA will alter our DNA. But this does not happen because mRNA apparently never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is stored. Once the viral protein is made, the body breaks down the mRNA and gets rid of it. Lipids are present to protect the mRNA and provide somewhat of a “greasy” exterior that helps the mRNA slide inside the cells. Cholesterol presumably has the same function while the salts and sugar are totally harmless.

Can you get the Corona virus from the Covid-19 vaccine?


It is impossible to get the Covid-19 virus from the vaccine as all vaccines use an inactivated virus. In simple terms it means they just copy what the virus looks like so that the body can recognize the virus and then develop antigens to fight the real virus if it enters your body. Think of is like showing a video of a Lion instead of an actual Lion to a person so they can l learn how to fend off a Lion attack. The concerns about vaccine have revolved around what other ingredients are in a vaccine. This is a valid concern. But if you look at the ingredients in these Covid-19 vaccines they are all pretty harmless. They are not using any heavy duty preservatives. Maybe that’s why the Pfizer vaccine is stored at such extreme temperature. To preserve it without having to use unnecessary preservatives.

Benefits of taking the Covid-19 vaccine


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My parents both got the vaccine and so far there was not single side effect. I called my Mom and told her to prevent Dad from drinking for at least a week, lest alcohol would affect the vaccine in a negative way. It was too late. He had already poured himself a glass of red wine within two hours of getting a shot, had a good meal and went to sleep. They both seem fine.

Regardless of the possible side effects of taking the vaccine it has some tangible and immediate benefits. Here are the reasons why you should consider taking it.

1)     Intense drug industry scrutiny -  The Covid-19 vaccine has been specifically developed to combat the Corona virus. It’s not a cocktail of vaccines unlike some  regular vaccines. The drug industry is under intense scrutiny so they are unlikely to have taken any short cuts or fudged the numbers. One mistake and they would all be out of business.

2)     It will reduce the risk of death – We may appear healthy on the surface but there maybe hidden weaknesses in our immune system we are not aware of. Can you afford to take the risk? Many apparently healthy people have died from Covid including doctors and nurses. According to the 2007 Physicians Health Study of 19,000 doctors, 40% were overweight and 23% were obese. So we have to take this apparently healthy appearances with a grain of salt. Yes, there have been a few cases of people allegedly dying after getting the Covid-19 vaccine. Even if it is true this is minuscule and statistically insignificant.

3)     It will allow you the freedom to travel – Many airlines and government will most likely insist in you having a Covid-19 vaccine before being allowed to fly or visit their country. If you don’t have the vaccine it could put a damper on your travel plans whether for business or work.

4)     Employment – While the Covid-19 vaccine is under emergency use authorization no employer can force you to get the vaccine. But when it is fully approved according to this Healthline article employers can require employees to get the vaccine as a condition of employment. Perfectly legal. This particularly true of if you work in a high risk occupations such as in daycare centers, preschools, universities, colleges, medical facilities, supermarkets and restaurants. But given the huge levels of unemployment those with the vaccine may get an edge to be gainfully employed.

5)     May prevent your loved ones from getting sick – Even if you are fearless and could survive a Covid-19 attack, you may infect a loved one like an elderly parent or grandparent.

6)     May help keep you from getting seriously ill – Even if you get Covid-19 after, having taken the vaccination it will reduce the severity of an attack. Who knows it might even stop you from going over the edge into a fatal heart attack or organ failure. Some protection is better than no protection.

7)     May boost your general immune system– A mother who has an immunization shot against Covid-19 may reduce the risk of developing complication to her own health and that of the baby. While a Covid-19 vaccine will not be given while you are pregnant it is better to the get a Covid-19 vaccine well before starting any pregnancy and make sure your immune system is in good shape.

8)   The Covid vaccine cannot give you Covid-19 -  The vaccines do not contain the complete virus and is not infectious. So under no circumstances can it gives you the virus. It can cause some mild side effects, mostly allergies, but it cannot give you Covid-19. There is even a chance it may fail to protect you from getting Covid-19 from others, but the vaccine cannot give your Covid-19.

Possible Side effects of Covid-19 vaccine 


It is too early to tell of any side affects of the Covid-19, especially long-term side effects. What we know at this stage is the following

1)     Normal side effectsAccording to this CDC article you will get pain and swelling on the arm. You may also get fever, chills, tiredness’ and a headache. All these side effects are true of most vaccine and completely normal.

2)     The Pfizer/Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Side effects – injection site pain • tiredness • headache • muscle pain • chills • joint pain • fever • injection site swelling • injection site redness • nausea • feeling unwell • swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) • Difficulty breathing • Swelling of your face and throat • A fast heartbeat • A bad rash all over your body • Dizziness and weakness.

3)     People with certain conditions should NOT take the Covid-19 vaccine – Certain categories of people are not allowed to have the Covid-19 vaccines. This IS primarily because it has not been tested on this group of people who include

  • People with allergies
  • People who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • People who’ve tested positive for COVID-19
  • People with underlying medical conditions
  • Children and adolescents (those under sixteen mostly)

It will invariable be approved for all groups after clinical trials are completed.

Will the Covid-19 vaccine works for new variants?


According to this Aljazeera article Moderna says it offers fairly good protection against new strains of the Covid vaccine.  Apparently for the South African variant, B.1.351, there was a six-fold reduction in the neutralizing antibody level. However Pfizer is now considering a 3rd booster shot for Covid-19 which means you will have to take three shot in the end.

Which Covid-19 Vaccine is the best?


This is a tricky choice. The leading vaccines using RNA/MRNA technology from Pfizer and Moderna are very good with a 90% effectiveness rate, but this technology has never been used on humans. Plus they are expensive to store and manage. While there are strict protocols including GPS monitored temperature storage instructions like this there is a possibility the vaccine could get easily damaged if it is even slightly mishandled. Then the vaccine will be ineffective and totally useless. Worse you may think you protected when you are not. All because of a little mistake by a tired nurse or Doctor who slipped up.

The Viral Vector vaccines like the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are much easier to store and administer as they are only required to be refrigerated at between 2-8°C. Initially these types of vaccines were not that effective. The Oxford-AstraZeneca was only 62% effective but the viral vector based Russian Sputnik V vaccine was 90% effective despite the rush to be the first registered Covid-19 vaccine. One comfort is these viral vector based vaccines are based on proven technology and have been used on human before. But the FDA has still not approved yet so you cannot get it for the moment. The other Covid vaccines using the Whole Virus method and Protein Subunit method are being primarily developed in other countries such as China, India and Brazil. There initial effective rates of 57% is similar to how good a flu vaccine is. So not bad but not the best either.  For all intents and purposes it will not be sold in the US or Europe and will most likely be designated for use in poor countries that cannot afford expensive vaccines.

What to do and what not to do after you get the Covid-19 vaccine


You really should not drink after you get the vaccine. According to this article from Healthline  “alcohol makes it harder for the immune system to gear up and defend the body against harmful germs “. While a single glass of wine may not have an effect why take a chance. Give your immune system the ability the best possible antigens possible.

One thing you should do after the Covid-19 vaccine is eat well. Have a hearty meal followed by a rich dessert. Yes sugar is bad normally but in this case you need to give the body all the fuel it needs to develop a strong immune response. It take energy to do that. Stop the all the dieting and fasting regimen for a week or so.

Avoid taking any pain medication after you get the Covid-19 vaccine. You see pain medications may dull the symptoms which might create a weaker immune system response from your body You want your immune develop the most robust immune response possible. If Advil dulls the pain the body may think it is not a big deal and develop a weak response  According to this article ” pain relievers might cause a weaker response to the vaccine, possibly making it less effective”. While the studies are limited it makes logical sense.

What is the countermeasures injury compensation program? 


The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) is a federal program that may help pay for costs of medical care and other specific expenses of certain people who have been seriously injured by certain medicines or vaccines, including this vaccine. Generally, a claim must be submitted to the CICP within one (1) year from the date of receiving the vaccine. To learn more about this program, visit www.hrsa.gov/cicp/ or call 1-855-266-2427.

Conclusion


What is clear is that none of these vaccines have an active virus. That means it cannot give you Covid-19. Vaccines are a method to train your immune system to respond effectively if you do get attacked by a Covid-19. Of course there is still a chance you might get Covid-19 since even the best vaccine is only 90% effective. But something is better than nothing. It also means you still have to be careful and look after your health. Remember the first vaccine shot takes up to 21-28 days to build immunity. So all in all maybe allow 1-3 months before you can develop pretty strong immunity. 

I for one will take it at the first available opportunity despite being fit and very healthy. But my primary motive is for the freedom. The ability to travel, conduct business and be gainfully employed. I do not want to stay home anymore. Even the most die hard anti vaxxers will take a vaccine when they consider the implications for their lifestyle and the safety of their loved ones. Vaccines are not without risks, but crossing the street is a risk. We have to make a judgement call. You know what would be nice. If the government would offer a ten million dollar guarantee with the Covid-19 vaccine. But our governments can’t even manage the vaccine program properly so each man is on his own and God for us all I guess.

UPDATE 02/25/2021
So I finally got my first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine. They handed me the vaccine fact sheet listed here. The process was easy. Signed up at Walgreens Pharmacy since I qualified. They offered me a choice of dates and times so I picked the earliest which was two days later. I wish Kaiser my insurance company offered the vaccine or at least had a process to register you if you qualified. I was expecting a huge line at Walgreens, but there was only one person ahead of me. Apparently they stagger them nicely so there is no crowd. The pharmacists said they do sixty shots per day. The cost of the vaccine is free but there is an administration fee which is billed to your insurance company who will in turn bill you. So it is not really free. They probably charge me $50 for the administration fee.

The vaccines hurts a little on the arm. This is ten hours after. My cousin’s husband got the chills and bit of a fever. He could not sleep because of the arm pain. I just went home, ate a hearty meal and went to sleep. So far so good. Apparently most people see a reaction with the second shot. My mother who got the second shot is suffering from body pain and a fever although she had no affect with the first shot. My Dad not so much. My sister who is a nurse also felt the second shot pretty acutely. But the the pain and fever only lasts for about 24 hours. At least in my sisters case.

References

  • Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine efficacy
    The Lancet
  • Everything you need to know about the Oxford vaccine
    Science Focus
  • Ingredients in Covid-19 vaccine
    USAtoday
  • What are the ingredients in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine?
    Cambridge-news.co.uk
  • What You Need To Know As The First COVID-19 Vaccines Head Your Way
    NPR
  • Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine candidate appears safe and effective
    The Lancet