What’s all the fuss about the COVID-19 Vaccine?

I have recently been observing, with much interest, the debate around both the necessity for, and safety of, the Covid-19 vaccine.  I should state, at this point that I am certainly not anti-vax.  I received all vaccinations as a child and I have also permitted my three children to have all the recommended vaccinations.

Having always believed that the Government has its citizens’ health and interests at the forefront of everything it does and trusted its advice on

immunisation recommendations, I wonder why there has been so much ‘fuss’ about the Covid-19 vaccination, why it is necessary and whether it will be safe when launched?

I have seen many Covid-19 vaccination information articles and tweets recently, which concerned me enough to undertake my own research on the proposed Covid-19 vaccine – I’ve looked at the AstraZeneca vaccine in particular and this is what I discovered:

SWMBO, Going Postal
Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

The AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine (Solution for Injection)

The packaging of the AstraZeneca vaccine solution demonstrates the vaccine is the ChAdOx1-S (Recombinant) vaccine.  So what is a recombinant vaccine?

Recombinant DNA Recombinant (Wikipedia)

Recombinant definition is – relating to or exhibiting genetic recombination.

Wikipedia states that “Recombinant DNA (rDNA) molecules formed by laboratory methods of genetic recombination (such as molecular cloning) to bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that would not otherwise be found in the genome.

Recombinant DNA is the general name for a piece of DNA that has been created by combining at east two fragments from two different sources.  Recombinant DNA is possible because DNA molecules from all organisms share the same chemical structure, and differ only in the nucleotide sequence within that identical overall structure.  Recombinant DNA molecules are sometimes called chimeric DNA because they can be made of material from two different species, like the mythical chimera.”

Research Square information

I have looked at the information on the Covid-19 vaccine on Research Square (RS), a leading author, editorial, and video services provider and a trusted partner to many of the leading academic publishers, institutions and societies worldwide. Research Square

In this RS Article  the methods used to develop the vaccine are described as thus; “We used direct RNA sequencing to analyse transcript expression from the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 genome in human MRC-5 and A549 cell lines that are non-permissive for vector replication alongside the replication permissive cell line, HEK293.  In addition, we used quantitative proteomics to study over time the proteome and phosphoproteome of A549 and MRC5 cells infected with the ChAdOx1 nVoV-19 vaccine candidate”.

Although, as a non-medical/scientific professional, I don’t profess to understand the exact medical scientific language or process involved in vaccine production, I was certainly curious enough to research MRC-5, A549 and HEK293 to establish in my own mind just what was being used in this vaccine.

MRC-5  MRC-5 (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia states that “MRC-5 (Medical Research Council cell strain 5) is a diploid cell culture line composed of fibroblasts, originally developed from the lung tissue of a 14-week-old aborted male fetus.  The cell line was isolated by JP Jacobs and colleagues in September 1966 from the seventh population doubling of the original strain, and MRC-5 cells themselves are known to reach senescence in around 45 population doublings.

MRC-5 cells are currently used to produce several vaccines including for Hepatitis A, varicella and polio.”

A549 Cell  A549 (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia states that “A549 cells are adenocarcinomic human alveolar basal epithelial cells, and constitute a cell line that was first developed in 1972 by D.J. Giard, et al. through the removal and culturing of cancerous lung tissue in the explanted tumour of a 58-year-old Caucasian male.  The cells are used as models for the study of lung cancer and the development of drug therapies against it.”

Under usage, Wikipedia also states that “Although A549 is a cancer cell line, it has also been studied for its response to tuberculosis specifically the production of chemokines as it is induced by the invading bacteria.”

HEK293  HEK293 Cells (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia states that “Human Embryonic Kidney 293 cells, also often referred to as HEK 293, or less precisely HEK cells, are a specific cell line originally derived from human embryonic kidney cells grown in tissue culture taken from an aborted female fetus.  HEK 293 cells have been widely used in cell biology research for many years, because of their reliable growth and propensity for transfectin.  They are also used by the biotechnology industry to produce therapeutic proteins and viruses for gene therapy.”

Under Applications, Wikipedia further states that A more specific use of HEK 293 cells is in the propagation of adenoviral vectors.  Viruses offer an efficient means of delivering genes into cells, which they evolved to do, and are thus of great use as experimental tools. However, as pathogens, they also present a risk to the experimenter. This danger can be avoided by the use of viruses which lack key genes, and which are thus unable to replicate after entering a cell. In order to propagate such viral vectors, a cell line that expresses the missing genes is required. Since HEK 293 cells express a number of adenoviral genes, they can be used to propagate adenoviral vectors in which these genes (typically, E1 and E3) are deleted, such as AdEasy.”

SWMBO, Going Postal
Image by MasterTux from Pixabay

The use of fetal tissue in vaccine development   Fetal Tissue/Vaccine Dev (Wikipedia)

This is an interesting article on contentious and emotive issue explaining that “the use of fetal tissue in vaccine development is the practice of researching, developing and producing vaccines through the use of cultured (laboratory grown) human fetal cells.  The vaccines themselves contain none of the original cells and – if any – very slight traces of human DNA fragments.” 

This one sentence: “The vaccines themselves contain none of the original cells and – if any – very slight traces of human DNA fragments” might give some people cause for concern.

Wikipedia also lists, under Applications, that “Vaccines that have been or are made using fetal tissue for the propagation of viruses include; Adenovirus, Chicken Pox, Ebola, Polio, Rubella and Shingles”

TED (Tenders Electronic Daily)  TED Website

TED is the European public procurement journal.  It contains all active notices published in the ‘Supplement to the EU Official Journal’ (OJS) and gives access to the archives for the past 5 years.

This website contains information regarding a contract award and notice on the results of the procurement procedure by the UK Government’s MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) to procure an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software tool at a cost of £1.5m to process the expected high volume of Covid-19 Adverse Drug Reaction (ADRs) and ensure that no details from the ADRs’ reaction text are missed.  See II.1.4 on the  MHRA Contract Info

Further, in Section IV: Procedure, at clause IV.1.1 it states that “it is not possible to retrofit the MHRA’s legacy systems to handle the volume of ADRs that will be generated by a Covid-19 vaccine.  Therefore, if the MHRA does not implement the AI tool, it will be unable to process these ADRs effectively.  This will hinder its ability to rapidly identify any potential safety issues with the Covid-19 vaccine and represents a direct threat to patient life and public health.”

In addition, reasons of extreme urgency explain that “the NHRA recognises that its planned procurement process for the SafetyConnect programme, including the AI tool, would not have concluded by vaccine launch.  Leading to an inability to effectively monitor adverse reactions to a Covid-19 vaccine.”

How are vaccines made and how long does it take?

A 2013 Paper from the University of Rotterdam found that, on average it takes more than 10 years to develop an effective vaccine.  Although the record is four years for a vaccine against mumps in the 1960’s and it’s taken 43 years for the US Drug Administration to approve a vaccine for Ebola, scientists are aiming to push through a vaccine for Covid-19 in less than 18 months.

The science phase of producing vaccines usually takes 2-5 years to conduct initial research and explore possibilities of what might encourage an immune response.  This phase can involve testing on animals and in test-tubes for safety and effectiveness.

Then the trials phase begins with clinical trials of small numbers of people testing the response in humans.  This is usually followed by a period of assessing human immune response to the vaccine, its effectiveness and any side effects during testing with larger numbers of people.

The final phase assesses whether the vaccine will protect humans against the disease in the real world, rather than through laboratory controlled testing.  This process often takes 5-10 years before the production phase and quality assurance procedures are developed and approved.

The fact that several of these stages are being run in parallel for the Covid-19 vaccine might give people cause for concern regarding the short-cuts being deployed and the unprecedented speed at which clinical trials are being conducted.

SWMBO, Going Postal
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

To take or not to take, that is the question?

As of 15 November 2020, 51,766 people have died with a Covid-19 label attached to their death.  That’s less than 0.1% of people in the UK, if we assume a current population of 65m. If we take into account that a great many of those deaths will not all be directly attributable to Covid-19, but rather due to a multitude of other co-morbidities, one might reasonably begin to question the reasoning behind, and validity of, such a rushed vaccine production programme when the disease has rather an insignificant effect on 99.9% of our population.

Considering all that I have discovered about proposed vaccine over the last few weeks and months, my objections to taking any in the foreseeable future include:

Safety Concerns – I do not consider there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure the safety of this vaccine.  The vaccine has undeniably been rushed through every regular vaccine production procedure and our Government is mitigating for a significant increase in ADRs.  Large numbers of ADRs are not unusual, but what is of more concern to me is Government’s compromised ability to register these ADRs and its ability to rapidly identify any potential safety issues with the Covid-19 vaccine and this represents a direct threat to patient life and public health.

With immunity from prosecution being given to the vaccine producing drug companies, this has to be a significant factor in questioning any drug’s efficacy and safety. One only has to consider the effects of the treatment, rather than preventative, drug thalidomide, which proved devastating to the unborn foetuses of many pregnant women, which was taken off the market in 1961 just 4 years after first being marketed, with up to 40% of affected infants dying around the time of birth and survivors suffering terrible limb, eye, urinary tract and heart problems.

Efficacy – Without considerable testing and trials of this vaccine, one has to wonder how the Government will establish efficacy of such a vaccine, bearing in mind the past performance of similar influenza vaccines.  The CDC states that the annual Flu Vaccine is only 40-60% effective in any year even when the flu viruses are well-matched to the vaccine.

I experienced the most awful, debilitating and prolonged illness in November of 2018 following my first flu vaccine.  I have never been so ill and shall never take a flu vaccine again. This episode really made me question the efficacy of taking a vaccine that was only effective for 50% of its recipients.

Moral Issues – I understand that many people will have moral, ethical and religious reasons for refusing to accept a vaccine made from aborted foetal tissue.  I, personally, accept that such vaccines have proved to be an effective method of safeguarding people from some terrible diseases, but I can only accept this when disease is a significant threat to mankind.  I don’t believe this is the case for Covid-19.

However, I am deeply concerned with the potential for my DNA to be changed or for DNA to be introduced into my body by a vaccine as per the information discussed above.

Unnecessary – With a (questionable) fatality rate of less than 0.1% and with other similar influenza vaccines only offering approximately 50% protection, I do not see the necessity to take a vaccine, which has undergone so little of the safety measures one would normally expect for a new vaccine in particular one aimed at all members of our society.  Apparently two doses may be required and this is likely to be repeated every year for effectiveness (how on earth has this been measured?).  I was ill for six weeks after my one and only flu vaccine, so imagine if I am to be taken ill for 12 weeks every year just because I took a vaccine to safeguard me from a disease that 99.9% people are relatively unaffected by.

Government Mistrust – there’s also an element of Government mistrust to contend with.  How many of us have seen the Government and their advisers mislead the public with ‘dodgy’ graphs and statistics regarding Covid-19 aimed at psychological coercion into doing as we are told?  My opening paragraph spoke of the trust that the nation once had in our Government’s advice to us in the interests of our health and wellbeing.  It is testament to the times we now live in, that our Government is so little trusted.

In Boris Johnson, we have a Prime Minister devoid of leadership or conviction and in Matt Hancock, we have a Health Minister who continually refuses to deny that the Covid-19 vaccine will become mandatory.  Both have accepted modelling, graphs, information and advice from questionable advisers, often discredited and with self-interest in promoting such a vaccine. This is of grave concern to me considering all I have researched and written above.

The Government is clearly relying on peer pressure and public ignorance regarding accepting this vaccine.  Having weighed-up the information that is already freely available and having balanced the risks against the benefits (perceived or otherwise), I shall not be taking this vaccine, in spite of rumours of potentially being denied my right to travel or attend various public events and places.

© SWMBO 2020

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