COVID-19 vaccine facts and myths – what you need to know about the new vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine facts

There are so many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to post some facts about the new vaccines which we can use for debunking purposes. I used to think that the HPV vaccine brought the most hatred and misinformation from the anti-vaccine world, but it’s clear that the new COVID-19 vaccines are their new targets.

This article will only focus on the five vaccines that I believe will eventually receive FDA or European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval – the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ Janssen), and Novavax vaccines. I remain unconvinced that any vaccine made in China or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will ever get approved by countries with robust drug regulatory agencies. However, if they are, I will certainly add them to a future iteration of this list.

I’m going to make this in a basic chart form for ease of use. I will link to supporting evidence wherever relevant.

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Adenovirus vaccines for COVID-19 – scientific facts vs anti-vax nonsense

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The new COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) and AstraZeneca utilize an adenovirus-vector to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Of course, this being a new vaccine technology, like the mRNA vaccines used by Pfizer and Moderna, we will be hearing all kinds of false claims about the new adenovirus vaccine.

So, this article will just try to explain what an adenovirus is, how it works in vaccines, and why it is safe. There’s going to be a lot of science here, so I’ll do my best to link you to good articles that explain some of it.

The anti-vaccine squad used an ignorance of basic cell biology to make all kinds of odd claims about the mRNA vaccines such as claiming that it would change the DNA of the vaccine recipient. It can’t.

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COVID-19 vaccine choices – which one should you get?

COVID-19 vaccine choices

There are now three COVID-19 vaccine choices that have been given clearance under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the USA. The one question I keep getting from friends and strangers is – which of the COVID-19 vaccines should they get?

The three vaccines which have the EUA in the USA, from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), are very safe and very effective, so my simple answer to the question is succinct – get whichever vaccine is available to you. It probably does not matter in the long run which will be better than the other, they all prevent SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

All three of the vaccines, plus additional COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Novavax (neither of which have submitted EUAs to the FDA as of this date), will be available in the developed world, that is, the European Union, USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Each country will have slightly different combinations of these vaccines available, but this discussion should be germane to anyone asking about which to get.

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COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy – expert recommendations on safety

COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy

One of the questions that keep entering the discourse on the COVID-19 vaccine is whether it should be given during pregnancy. There’s not a definitive answer, but there is some good advice based on evidence from leading infectious disease experts.

I’m not here to make a recommendation one way or another regarding whether the COVID-19 vaccine should be given during pregnancy. My job is to provide the evidence and the recommendations so that every woman can be armed with this when speaking to their healthcare provider.

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Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are not vaccines – the new myth

Pfizer Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

Here we go again – I keep seeing the new anti-vaccine claim that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are not, in fact, vaccines but are either “medical devices” or “gene therapy.” I keep trying to stay up with every single myth and trope pushed by the anti-vaxxers, but I swear that there’s a new one every day.

I would really love to write about something other than COVID-19 vaccines – I’ve got a ton of articles I want to write about GMOs, supplements, and cancer that are just sitting in a virtual pile on my desk. Unfortunately, I’m very worried that the anti-vax hatred of these new vaccines will allow this pandemic to keep going. That’s why many of us keep doing the best we can to stamp out the myths.

Just to be clear, the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are actually vaccines – they are biological preparations that provide active acquired immunity to an infectious disease, in this case, COVID-19. But, I’m going to have to debunk these myths.

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COVID-19 vaccines rushed? Another anti-vaccine myth without merit

COVID-19 vaccines rushed

One of the enduring myths about vaccines is that they’re rushed to market, which has continued with COVID-19 vaccines. This myth doesn’t arise because the anti-vaxxers have some “gotcha” information about these vaccines, it’s because they are intent on pushing fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

If you read my articles since March about the development of this vaccine, I was very troubled about the speed of development. Most vaccines take 5-10 years to develop, mostly because we want a better handle on the expected effectiveness and to uncover any potential (and extremely rare) serious adverse events.

But were the COVID-19 vaccine rushed? Not really. Basically, two massive resources – money and brainpower – were thrown at developing a vaccine so that we could stop the inexorable march of the pandemic. The best scientists in the world collaborated with the best pharmaceutical companies with the backing of the richest countries to develop and manufacture safe and effective vaccines.

It wasn’t a magical process where scientists pulled ideas out of thin air to make these vaccines using dangerous technologies. They didn’t.

We know how to train the adaptive immune system to prevent pathogenic diseases with vaccines using all kinds of technologies. Once we were able to isolate the SARS-CoV-2 virus and determine what parts of its structure were the most immunogenic, we knew what to do, it wasn’t a huge mystery at that time.

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COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and infertility – another anti-vaccine myth

COVID-19 mrna vaccines infertility

Here we go again with another anti-vaccine myth about infertility and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. The anti-vaccine zealots are so predictable. They grab onto a trope and hang on for dear life. They tried this nonsense with the HPV vaccine which was based on a retracted study, and they failed. They tried to claim that the tetanus vaccine caused “mass sterilization” in Africa, and they failed there too.

This time, it’s the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will cause infertility.  Anti-vaxxers are trying to use some seriously twisted “logic” to get from the facts about these vaccines to a major myth that somehow, in some magical way, these vaccines will cause infertility. 

Let’s get right to the point – no, they don’t. But let me give you the science.

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What are COVID-19 mRNA vaccines? Science to help debunk myths

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how the new COVID-19 mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. The purpose of this article is to give the casual reader a 15 minute (plus or minus an hour) scientific review of the mRNA technology that is the basis of those new vaccines. 

There will be several new COVID-19 vaccines that should be available widely in the next few weeks, but none of those will use mRNA vaccine technology. When those become available, I’ll try to write up a similar review of those technologies.

Let’s give this a go.

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Lipid nanoparticles in COVID-19 mRNA vaccines – ICAN fails science

lipid nanoparticles

This article about lipid nanoparticles in COVID-19 mRNA vaccines is by VaultDwellerSYR, a pseudonym used by a faculty member of a School of Pharmacy within a large medical school. They have significant research and publications on the effect of certain chemicals on the brain. Although we are opposed to all arguments from authority, the author has a substantial record of actual, published research in this field of brain cell biology and biochemistry. 

The anti-vaccine Del Bigtree‘s Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), as expected, started to seed doubts and fallacious claims on COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, in an attempt to discredit and reduce the uptake of this vaccine by the population.

In their latest stunt, ICAN posted on January 17th on their Facebook page the following statement with a “legal update” pictogram:

ICAN INQUIRES WITH THE FDA ABOUT THE SAFETY OF LIPID NANOPARTICLES USED IN PFIZER’S AND MODERNA’S COVID-19 VACCINESICAN, through its attorneys, has once again written to Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, to demand a response to the question of whether or not lipid nanoparticles used in both of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe. 
ICAN is aware that both Pfizer and Moderna have used lipid nanoparticles (“LNPs”) in their vaccines – LNPs are what the manufacturers use to surround the RNA so that it does not fall apart when injected and before reaching its target cells. Some have compared these LNPs to a fatty envelope or a delivery vehicle to get the mRNA into the human body in one piece.

A concern arose when ICAN was alerted to a study published in 2018 titled Lipid Nanoparticles: A Novel Approach for Brain Targeting. The study states: “…lipid nanoparticles are taken up readily by the brain because of their lipophilic nature. The bioacceptable and biodegradable nature of lipid nanoparticles makes them…suited for brain targeting.” The article also states, “these nanostructures need to be investigated intensively to successfully reach the clinical trials stage.”
ICAN wants to fully understand whether the evidence that these LNPs are easily taken up and end up in the brain is a safety concern with these two particular vaccines. ICAN, through its attorneys, led by Aaron Siri, has therefore sent a letter to Dr. Peter Marks, the Director of the Food and Drug Administrations’ Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. If you recall from previous legal updates, Dr. Marks has referred to himself as “the FDA point person on COVID-19 vaccines” and has assured Americans that the FDA “will make sure they’re safe and effective.” 

ICAN also pointed out to Dr. Marks that there appears to be support for the proposition that the body may react strongly to a second dose of the LNPs. Stated differently, the body is primed to have an immune reaction to the LNPs with the first dose. As explained by Johns Hopkins, “Side effects were more frequent after the second dose in the vaccine trials.” Another article, titled Exogenous nanoparticles and endogenous crystalline molecules as danger signals for the NLRP3 inflammasomes, supports that the increasingly inflammatory side effects observed in those who received the vaccine in Pfizer’s and Moderna’s clinical trials are attributable to the LNPs and that these side effects get worse with repeated injection. We have seen this increased “reactogenicity” clearly in the data from both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 clinical trials. 
ICAN continues to ask the hard questions of Dr. Marks and others: If LNPs from the vaccine, which contain mRNA, are entering brain tissue, and an immune reaction is occurring during the second dose to these LNPs, does this pose a safety concern for vaccine recipients? ICAN asked Dr. Marks to consider the question posed and provide support for the substance of any response he provides.

ICAN will closely review any response from Dr. Marks given his promise that he and the FDA “uphold globally respected standards for product quality, safety, and efficacy” and his statement that he would resign if “something that was unsafe or ineffective [] was being put through.” As always, ICAN offered to provide any additional information or to meet with Dr. Marks to discuss this issue.

As you can see, ICAN is on one of another PR stunt in the attempt to “cease and desist”, as intimidation with little legal merit and certainly not based on an honest and critical review of the existing literature. Let’s critically examine ICAN’s claims about lipid nanoparticles.

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Andrew Wakefield is back and thinks COVID-19 mRNA vaccines change DNA

The cunning fraud  MrAndrew Wakefield is back again pushing a new brand of anti-vaccine gibberish combined with a huge dollop of COVID-19 denialism. Of course, he would jump into the fray pushing debunked and discredited tropes about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, because he has had nothing factual to say about any vaccine for twenty years. It would be delusional to believe that he would suddenly see the light about these new vaccines.

Of course, the anti-vaccine religion considers Andrew Wakefield one of their high priests, along with Del Bigtree and Robert F Kennedy Jr, all of whom appear to have the power of papal infallibility – whatever they claim is considered dogma, irrespective of science. Of course, Andrew Wakefield’s initial paper about vaccines and autism was retracted, and the overwhelming science debunks this claim.

Wakefield has become so discredited as a “scientist” that he has resorted to “publishing” his most recent gibberish, vaccines are causing the sixth mass extinction, in the discredited Journal of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which is not indexed in PubMed. The AAPS is a far-right medical association that rejects most science about climate change, vaccines, HIV, and many other issues. In case you’re wondering, their leader, Dr. Jane Orient, is a COVID-19 denier.

So, what has Mr. Wakefield said now? He’s repeating the debunked myth that the mRNA in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will change your DNA. No, they won’t. Here I go again, disputing more garbage spewed by Andrew Wakefield.

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