Comment on Are mRNA Vaccines for COVID-19 helpful or harmful? by Sean Pitman.
As of June 11, 2021, approximately 296 million doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the United States, with 52 million administered to persons aged 12–29 years; of these, 30 million were first and 22 million were second doses. Within the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) (4), the national vaccine safety passive monitoring system, 1,226 reports of myocarditis after mRNA vaccination were received during December 29, 2020–June 11, 2021. Among persons with reported myocarditis after mRNA vaccination, the median age was 26 years (range = 12–94 years), with median symptom onset interval of 3 days after vaccination (range = 0–179). Among 1,194 reports for which patient age was known, 687 were among persons aged <30 years and 507 were among persons aged ≥30 years; of 1,212 with sex reported, 923 were male, and 289 were female.§§ Among 1,094 patients with number of vaccine doses received reported, 76% occurred after receipt of dose 2 of mRNA vaccine; cases were reported after both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Informed by early reports, CDC prioritized rapid review of myocarditis in persons aged <30 years reported during May 1–June 11, 2021; the 484 patient records in this subset were evaluated by physicians at CDC, and several reports were also reviewed with Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project investigators,¶¶ including cardiologists. At the time of this report, 323 of these 484 cases were determined to meet criteria in CDC’s case definitions for myocarditis, pericarditis, or myopericarditis by provider interview or medical record review (Table 1). The median age of the 323 patients meeting CDC’s case definitions was 19 years (range = 12−29 years); 291 were male, and 32 were female. The median interval from vaccination to symptom onset was 2 days (range = 0−40 days); 92% of patients experienced onset of symptoms within 7 days of vaccination. Of the 323 persons meeting CDC’s case definitions, 309 (96%) were hospitalized. Acute clinical courses were generally mild; among 304 hospitalized patients with known clinical outcomes, 95% had been discharged at time of review, and none had died. Treatment data in VAERS are preliminary and incomplete; however, many patients have experienced resolution of symptoms with conservative treatment, such as receipt of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Follow-up is ongoing to identify and understand longer-term outcomes after myocarditis occurring after COVID-19 vaccination. (Link)
In comparison, those who are infected with COVID-19 have a much higher rate of myocarditis as well as a much MUCH higher rate of long-term injuries and death. Up to a third of otherwise young healthy people, including athletes and even children, end up with myocarditis following even mild infections with COVID-19.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
1. I assume some defective mRNA strands and lipid layers can be generated during the myriad of involved complex chemical processes. Do we understand percentage of defective nanoparticles / mRNA strands? Does process include QA that somehow reduces or eliminates potentially harmful defects. What is risk of defective mRNA strands that could encode for harmful proteins? Any other associated risks here that I am not addressing?
Given that the mRNA sequences in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are synthetically produced, I would say that there are very few defective mRNA sequences. And, when it comes to producing proteins based on these few defective sequences, the additional risk from such defective sequences for the human body would be, effectively, zero. In fact, a few slight variations in the protein sequence for the spike protein would only result in slight variations in the immune system response. And, producing such slight variations are already part of how our human immune system is programmed to work – automatically producing slight variations in the antibodies produced against a particular type of foreign antigen, for example.
2. How much independent review occurred with these vaccines? Is the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety the only body that reviewed. Do scientiests get hands-on and eyes-on access to the actual chemical processes to verify what is happening (in vitro and in vivo), or are they just provided with white papers and reports for review?
A great many scientists were involved in the production and review of the mRNA vaccines. These vaccines, how they work, and their effects on human biochemistry are very well known by a great many scientists who work in this field of immunochemistry. There are no fundamental secrets here.
3. Some papers and FAQs claim the generated viral “spike protein” is presented on the cell surface. Some of your dialogue here seems to indicate that this is not the case. Which is it? How is it presented? Is it presented in a variety of ways?
Here are a few diagrams that illustrate what’s happening within different cells of the body where the mRNA sequences are decoded and presented:
Mechanism of action of mRNA vaccines. 1. The mRNA is in vitro transcribed (IVT) from a DNA template in a cell-free system. 2. IVT mRNA is subsequently transfected into dendritic cells (DCs) via (3) endocytosis. 4. Entrapped mRNA undergoes endosomal escape and is released into the cytosol. 5. Using the translational machinery of host cells (ribosomes), the mRNA is translated into antigenic proteins. The translated antigenic protein undergoes post-translational modification and can act in the cell where it is generated. 6. Alternatively, the protein is secreted from the host cell. 7. Antigen protein is degraded by the proteasome in the cytoplasm. The generated antigenic peptide epitopes are transported into the endoplasmic reticulum and loaded onto major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules (MHC I). 8. The loaded MHC I-peptide epitope complexes are presented on the surface of cells, eventually leading to the induction of antigen-specific CD8 + T cell responses after T-cell receptor recognition and appropriate co-stimulation. 9. Exogenous proteins are taken up DCs. 10. They are degraded in endosomes and presented via the MHC II pathway. Moreover, to obtain cognate T-cell help in antigen-presenting cells, the protein should be routed through the MHC II pathway. 11. The generated antigenic peptide epitopes are subsequently loaded onto MHC II molecules. 12. The loaded MHC II-peptide epitope complexes are presented on the surface of cells, leading to the induction of the antigen-specific CD4 + T cell responses. Exogenous antigens can also be processed and loaded onto MHC class I molecules via a mechanism known as cross-presentation. (Link)
Now, The mRNA-1273-encoded prefusion stabilizes the S protein (Moderna Vaccine) consists of the SARS-CoV-2 glycoprotein with a transmembrane anchor and an intact S1–S2 cleavage site. The presence of the transmembrane anchor would seem to enable some of the spike proteins to remain attached to the surface of the cell that produced them, such as a muscle cell, but would still be recognized as “foreign” by the immune system. (Link)
See also: Link
Are mRNA Vaccines for COVID-19 helpful or harmful?
The following commentary by organic chemist Derek Lowe is also helpful in understanding this question (December 4, 2020):
Bob Wachter of UCSF had a very good thread on Twitter about vaccine rollouts the other day, and one of the good points he made was this one. We’re talking about treating very, very large populations, which means that you’re going to see the usual run of mortality and morbidity that you see across large samples. Specifically, if you take 10 million people and just wave your hand back and forth over their upper arms, in the next two months you would expect to see about 4,000 heart attacks. About 4,000 strokes. Over 9,000 new diagnoses of cancer. And about 14,000 of that ten million will die, out of usual all-causes mortality. No one would notice. That’s how many people die and get sick anyway.
But if you took those ten million people and gave them a new vaccine instead, there’s a real danger that those heart attacks, cancer diagnoses, and deaths will be attributed to the vaccine. I mean, if you reach a large enough population, you are literally going to have cases where someone gets the vaccine and drops dead the next day (just as they would have if they *didn’t* get the vaccine). It could prove difficult to convince that person’s friends and relatives of that lack of connection, though. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is one of the most powerful fallacies of human logic, and we’re not going to get rid of it any time soon. Especially when it comes to vaccines. The best we can do, I think, is to try to get the word out in advance. Let people know that such things are going to happen, because people get sick and die constantly in this world. The key will be whether they are getting sick or dying at a noticeably higher rate once they have been vaccinated.
No such safety signals have appeared for the first vaccines to roll out (Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech). In fact, we should be seeing the exact opposite effects on mortality and morbidity as more and more people get vaccinated. The excess-death figures so far in the coronavirus pandemic have been appalling (well over 300,000 in the US), and I certainly think mass vaccination is the most powerful method we have to knock that back down to normal.
That’s going to be harder to do, though, if we get screaming headlines about people falling over due to heart attacks after getting their vaccine shots. Be braced.
Are mRNA Vaccines for COVID-19 helpful or harmful?
I know that various European countries, including the Netherlands, Denmark, and Spain, have reported outbreaks of COVID-19 in mink pelt farms – leading to the culling of more than a million animals. From laboratory experiments, it’s also clear that ferrets (a relative of the mink) are also readily infected with the “novel coronavirus”. Aside from this, however, I’m not aware of any “issues” with animal experiments regarding COVID-19 in particular. However, in 2008 there was an interesting experiment involving ferrets that were given the flu vaccine against the H1N1 virus – who then became sicker once exposed to the live virus as compared to those ferrets that weren’t vaccinated. The reason for the effect was unclear, and Skowronski, the lead author, urged other research groups to take up the question.
“Skowronski likened the mechanism to what happens with dengue viruses. People who have been infected with one subtype of dengue don’t develop immunity to the other three. In fact, they are more at risk of developing a life-threatening form of dengue if they are infected with one of the other strains.”
Skowronski called the second theory the infection block hypothesis. Having a bout of the flu gives the infected person antibodies that may be able, for a time, to fend off other strains; flu shots only protect against the strains they contain. So under this theory, people who didn’t have flu in 2008 because they got a flu shot may have been less well armed against the pandemic virus.”
While interesting, such an effect has not been identified in the animal or human trials for the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. Also, subsequently updated flu vaccines to the H1N1 strain haven’t had this problem either (Link).
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
I’m glad you reached the conclusion that the immune system God designed into our bodies gives better protection against infection than vaccines do.
God didn’t “design” COVID-19 derived immunity any more than vaccine-derived immunity. What God designed was an immune system that could learn from past infections (or exposure to foreign antigens) in order to prevent future infections by the same type of invader more effectively.
You see, I’m not sure that we have the same definition of “natural immunity” in the context of COVID-19 here. The human body was designed with two different types of immune systems known as the “innate” and “adaptive” immune systems. Consider, now, that I’m not talking about generalized immunity that isn’t specific or targeted against COVID-19 in particular. In other words, I’m not talking about the “innate” immune system. What I am talking about is the “adaptive” immune system – a type of immunity that can be gained by surviving a “natural infection” to COVID-19 – which then produces “natural immunity” or “naturally-derived immunity” within the adaptive immune system that is specifically targeted against future COVID-19 infections. And, as already mentioned, while this “natural” method of gaining targeted adaptive immunity can be superior to the immunity gained by vaccines, for some people, it is far riskier and is not nearly as consistent as vaccine-derived adaptive immunity.
But, you counter with the argument that vaccines are also not consistent since there are “breakthrough infections”. However, the consistency I’m talking about is in regard to the reduction of and deaths – not just breakthrough nasopharyngeal infections (which aren’t the real problem). As noted in my McCullough article (Link), a fairly new study showed that the “percentage of variant cross-binding memory B cells was higher in vaccinees than individuals who recovered from mild COVID-19.” (Goel, et al., August 23, 2021). In this regard, it seems as though those who were vaccinated have an advantage in that the resulting immunity is more consistent and predictable as compared to natural immunity. These higher levels of memory B-cells within vaccinated people may also be the reason for the long-term protection against hospitalizations and deaths – despite the waining levels of antibody levels against the virus over time. Memory T- and B-cells produced in response to the vaccine can be “awakened” when an infection hits the body, a pre-formed arm that is ready to fight off the repeat offender.
There is also the problem that up to a third of people who were previously infected by COVID-19 don’t develop antibodies against it (Liu et al., September 2021). Ultimately, 36% of those who were infected by COVID-19 remained seronegative, meaning that they never developed detectable levels of such antibodies in their blood, even when multiple blood samples were checked for each person. The study also revealed that people who had lower SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in their respiratory tract were less like to subsequently have antibodies in their blood. This means, of course, that the adaptive immune system was never educated enough to effectively combat future infections by COVID-19.
So, you see, the vaccine may not reach as high a level of immunity as is gained by some who survived a prior infection by COVID-19. However, the level of immunity gained, when it comes to reducing hospitalizations and death, is more consistent for the vaccinated. This is the reason why there are so many stories of those who thought that they were safe, because of some previous mild COVID-19 infection, but then got infected again with COVID-19 and got very sick, particularly with the Delta Variant, with many dying as a result.
As far as your “alternative views” being more hopeful and less scary, that would be the case if they were actually true. The problem is that the conspiracy theorists that you consistently follow paint the vaccines as much more risky and scary than they truly are and the COVID-19 pandemic as much less serious and much less scary than it really is. They also create far more confidence in alternative drugs and therapies, like ivermectin for instance, than is actually supported by the weight of scientific evidence. That’s the problem. They create fear where there shouldn’t be fear and they create confidence where there shouldn’t be so much confidence. They get things exactly backward.
This is not to say that I think things were handled by the government very well at all. I don’t think it was necessary to shut down the government, for one thing. However, this is all 20/20 hindsight of course.
As far as the “miraculous recoveries” you mention, these are far too few. There are far far too many hospitalizations, serious long-term injuries, and deaths to be very comforted by miraculous recoveries. Clearly, these miraculous recoveries aren’t remotely common enough nor are they associated with drugs like ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine which have, so far, not shown a consistently detectable benefit in the best and largest RCTs.
Sure, ivermectin has relatively few side effects (unless you overdose) and a low mortality rate. However, it’s not as though the mortality risk is zero. “Between the years 2003 and 2017, the total average population treated [with Ivermectin] was around 15,552,588 among which 945 cases of SAE [severe adverse effects] were registered in DR Congo, i.e. 6 cases of SAE for 100,000 persons treated per year. 55 deaths related to post-CDTI SAE were recorded, which represents 5.8% of all cases of SAE.” (Link). Still, the point here is that even if the risks for ivermectin were actually zero, there’s still no good evidence that it provides much of a useful benefit – certainly nothing close to the benefits provided by the vaccines against COVID-19.
Yet, you write:
If an alternative drug is safer than aspirin and there are thousands of claimed recoveries resulting from the drug, isn’t it worth a trial, no matter what the “studies” say, considering the alternative is often death after being on a ventilator?
It might be worth a try if that was your only option. However, it isn’t your only option. Now that we have vaccines that provide a very clear and very substantial benefit, it is far far more reasonable to take the vaccines than to trust that ivermectin will save you – when the best scientific studies have yet to detect much of a benefit, even with early treatment, at reducing severe COVID-19 infections or death.
But it’s okay. We each can choose a path that is consistent with the best evidence as we understand it. For that matter, it seems to me that vaccination is the best course for many but not for others. Most don’t bother to understand just what these COVID vaccines do, much less do a benefit-risk analysis. But some of us do, and some of us find that avoiding the COVID vaccine, boosting our immune system and preparing for a possible infection is the best path for us.
You’re certainly free to choose. However, your choice could impact others – in a negative way. If the vaccines really do significantly reduce the odds of transmitting the virus to others (as several studies have shown), the choice of a person not to get vaccinated increases the odds of viral transmission to others who might not do as well against a COVID-19 infection. We aren’t islands here. Our choices have the potential to affect other people.
But, you think you can “boost your immune system” some other way. I wish this were true, but there just isn’t any other way that is as effective as the vaccines at the moment. The problem is that as humans age, our immune systems deteriorate at an almost exponential rate. Diet and healthful living do help, to be sure, but this does not negate the need to take advantage of the additional substantial advantages offered by vaccines – and this becomes more and more true the older and older we get. Add as many layers of protection as you can. Do it all. Be as healthy as you can be – AND take the vaccine.
Consider also that even a very healthy young person, who personally might have a very low risk of serious sickness or death, can still get infected and transmit the virus to others who might not do so well with an infection.
I suspect everyone will be exposed to this corona virus sooner or later, just as we have been to other corona viruses.
Indeed. However, the faster we can achieve herd immunity, as a community, the more those who are most vulnerable among us will be protected. And, the fastest and safest way to do this is via vaccines.
What concerns me most is the lack of respect among Christians for those with opposing views. While I don’t see vaccination as a salvation matter, an attitude of forcing others into agreement with our views is not an attitude born of the Spirit of God but of the enemy. I believe we can agree on that.
Love and respect never go out of style. However, there are times when the most loving thing to do is to protect those who are most vulnerable from those who are unwilling to act in a way that best protects the most vulnerable – particularly, say, in a hospital or nursing home setting. This isn’t to say that I’m a fan of government mandates for the general population. I’m not. I think that such mandates are largely counterproductive. Given that the vaccines are generally available for those who want them now, it seems best to me to limit mandates to those who work in settings where people are sick or old or otherwise vulnerable.
Natural Immunity vs. Vaccines vs. the Delta Variant
You’re commenting on an older post regarding natural immunity. Since then, additional evidence has indeed come to light showing that natural immunity goes well beyond antibody production and is therefore generally superior to vaccine-based immunity. Of course, vaccine-based immunity does have a couple of advantages over natural immunity. The most obvious advantage, of course, is that vaccine-based immunity is gained without having to take on the significant risks associated with getting infected by COVID-19. The additional advantage of vaccine-based immunity is that it seems to offer more consistent immunity compared to natural immunity (i.e., some who were infected don’t gain significant immunity following infection).
I discuss all of this in much more detail here: Link
As far as being more critical of evolutionists, look, I’ve reviewed a great many conspiracy claims. I usually get several sent to me every day. It’s not like I haven’t reviewed these claims you’re sending my way. It’s just that they almost always turn out to be completely false or misleading. It’s the same thing as with the evolutionary arguments I get – except it’s now on the other foot. What you believe regarding COVID-19 and vaccines simply doesn’t have the weight of empirical evidence to back it up. I know the claims of conspiracy theorists can be scary and worrisome. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re true. They just aren’t true. The minority opinion isn’t always true. In fact, the majority of experts are usually right – as in this case.
COVID Vaccine Myths, Questions, and Rumors with Drs. Rhonda Patrick and Roger Seheult
There are always rogue doctors around selling snake oil remedies and forwarding a host of conspiracy theories. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a strong consensus in the medical community regarding COVID-19 and the efficacy and relative safety of the vaccines. A handful of doctors spreading conspiracy theories shouldn’t overcome one’s ability to see that the significant weight of empirical scientific evidence strongly supports the consensus conclusion in this case. After all, over 98% of medical doctors in this country are now vaccinated – particularly those working in ICUs who see that the unvaccinated are by far more likely to end up in the ICU and die with COVID compared to the vaccinated – by a ratio of more than 10:1 for any given age category.
COVID Vaccine Myths, Questions, and Rumors with Drs. Rhonda Patrick and Roger Seheult
While I agree, part of the problem is that people, in general in this country, simply don’t want to live healthful lives despite actually knowing that what they are doing isn’t healthy or good for them. When I was doing primary care, this was a constant frustration. You could tell people all day long what they should be doing, and they would usually even agree, but they just wouldn’t actually do what they knew they should be doing…
COVID Vaccine Myths, Questions, and Rumors with Drs. Rhonda Patrick and Roger Seheult
Sure, it’s very unfortunate that this pandemic has been so politicized. However, just because we know the final outcome doesn’t mean that this is it. We shouldn’t bring on the “Time of Trouble” before it’s actually here. During this particular pandemic we, particularly as Christians, should strive to separate medical science from politics. Merging them will only cause more harm. Many people really are suffering and dying due to COVID-19 and the mRNA vaccines have proven themselves to be very effective at preventing serious sickness and death.