Given the myriad of cardiac concerns associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, news that the myocarditis associated with mRNA vaccination is mostly mild and resolves quickly in the rare instances in which it occurs was welcome news. The findings continue to tip scales in favor of vaccination and resulted in this week’s top trending clinical topic.
Over a month and a half before the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic, BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin met with his wife, BioNTech’s co-founder and chief medical officer Özlem Türeci, and together they agreed to redirect most of the company’s resources to developing a vaccine. Up until that point, BioNTech was little-known internationally and primarily focused on developing novel cancer treatments. The founders were confident in the potential of their mRNA technology, which they knew could trigger a powerful immune response. That confidence wasn’t necessarily shared by the broader medical community. No mRNA vaccine or treatment had ever been approved before. But the couple’s timely breakthrough was actually decades in the making. CNBC spoke with Şahin and Türeci about how they, along with Pfizer, created a Covid-19 vaccine using mRNA.
This commentary concerns a video showing aspects of the development of MRNA vaccines. It is all about Pfizer’s German partner, BioNtech, which manufactures the vaccine. They have produced the bulk of the worlds mRNA vaccines, due to Pfizer‘s great financial strength and experience in marketing.
Moderna, a wholly American company and by comparison a small fry, has also been doing decades of work with mRNA platform technology, mainly on cancer treatment.
With $800 million from the U.S. government, Moderna was able to scale up their manufacturing process and deliver a vaccine, approved by the FDA, shortly after Pfizer did so.
These vaccines were made possible by two technical advances.
The first advance was in substituting pseudouridine for uridine in the mRNA, so that the target cells natural defenses would not destroy it. The second involves coating the mRNA with a nano size particle to get it into the target cell.
Each of these advances will probably receive a Nobel prize, and is an elegant example of the sophistication of modern biotechnology.
As mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines are deployed to protect hundreds of millions of people across the world from the deadly global pandemic, the University of Pennsylvania scientists whose research breakthroughs laid the foundation for swift vaccine development have been awarded the 2021 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Here, mRNA vaccine pioneers Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, and Katalin Karikó, PhD, share the story behind their development of this groundbreaking technology, and what it means for the future of medicine.
Recent studies have shown that the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines is decreasing, though experts say the shots still work well. WSJ explains what the numbers mean and why they don’t tell the full story. Photo illustration: Jacob Reynolds/WSJ
In the video above, Alexander Stockton, a producer on the Opinion Video team, explores two of the main reasons the number of Covid cases is soaring once again in the United States: vaccine hesitancy and refusal.
“It’s hard to watch the pandemic drag on as Americans refuse the vaccine in the name of freedom,” he says. Seeking understanding, Mr. Stockton travels to Mountain Home, Ark., in the Ozarks, a region with galloping contagion and — not unrelated — abysmal vaccination rates. He finds that a range of feelings and beliefs underpins the low rates — including fear, skepticism and a libertarian strain of defiance.
This doubt even extends to the staff at a regional hospital, where about half of the medical personnel are not vaccinated — even while the intensive care unit is crowded with unvaccinated Covid patients fighting for their lives. Mountain Home — like the United States as a whole — is caught in a tug of war between private liberty and public health. But Mr. Stockton suggests that unless government upholds its duty to protect Americans, keeping the common good in mind, this may be a battle with no end.
I am a Doctor Who has studied the miracle of MRNA Covid vaccine, and who knows that it cannot get into the nucleus of any of my cells or long remain in my body.
I have studied the transmission and pathogenesis of Covid, and know how it works. The knowledge that it could affect my thinking, memory, my very essence, and the fact that it could last indefinitely after the initial illness has certainly made me a believer.
There is an element of truth in the concerns of anti-vaxers and anti-maskers. Unfortunately the problem is not black and white. No vaccine is 100% safe, although the mRNA vaccines come close. There is some worry about clotting problems with a few people, particularly the young. This risk is measured in terms of problems per million people getting the vaccine, and is vanishingly small compared to the alternative of exposing yourself to the ravages of Covid.
An intelligent friend of mine who is a nurse has auto immune disease, and vaccines tend to hit her hard. Unfortunately the fact that she is a nurse and is exposed a lot to the public make her more likely to get Covid, and her auto immunity would render her much more likely to have complications, should she get it. She has received her first injection of Covid vaccine, and had a lot of fatigue, headaches and symptoms that were relatively self-limited.
Masks are mainly useful in protecting other people from the mask-wearer and only slightly helpful in protecting the mask wearer from other people. Also, I have read a long article about some subtle disadvantages of forcing children to wear masks although I think it’s still a good idea, particularly when Covid is common in the community.
The main problem is that Americans have freedom of choice without the knowledge to weigh the benefits and hazards of receiving the vaccine, versus the hazards of getting the disease.
There are times when we should unload the making of such statistical decisions on people who know more about the vagaries of disease.
In my opinion, the states which allow hospitals to require their healthcare workers to receive vaccination, and allow schools to require their students and teachers to receive vaccination are in the right. Currently, there are less problems in those states.
Covid is certainly a nasty disease, and even doubly vaccinated people can be spreaders. As an elderly vaccinated person, I still treat everybody as if they are infected, and require masks when visitors come. When inside, I sit by an open door, with a fan behind me blowing air in the other direction.
At the age of 89, I cannot afford to get Covid-19.
The Biden administration announced that Americans who have been fully vaccinated with a two-dose regimen against Covid-19 should receive a booster, citing the threat from the highly contagious Delta variant. WSJ breaks down what you need to know. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters
Proteins, the very structure of life itself, are currently being understood with increasing precision. This will undoubtedly lead to a new generation of medications useful in treating a wide variety of diseases. Such proteins could be coded by DNA or RNA, and churned out by veritable protein factories, yeasts.
This could drastically lower the cost of such medications, which are more stable than RNA, allowing easier distribution and storage. DNA and RNA advances are currently getting all the press, with CRSPR advances in manipulating their structure. Indeed, the RNA vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer have been a rapidly deployed life saver with the COVID-19 epidemic. Correction of genetic disease is also possible in rare instances, if only one gene causes the disease.
PROTEINS, the result of DNA and RNA activity, form the basis of a vast array of signaling molecules, offering many possible treatments of disease.
The reason why advances in protein chemistry has been slow, is that protein is a very large molecule that exercises its effects by its three dimensional structure.This is formed by the loops,foldings, twists, and bunchings of its amino acid string. A molecule’s three-dimensional structure is very expensive to determine at the present time,
Encouraging scientists to attempt predicting the structure by knowing the electric charges and other sticky characteristics of different parts of that amino acid string. Recently, artificial intelligence has come to the rescue, and the field is advancing rapidly.
Novel vaccines are being developed, using small protein pieces of the COVID-19 antibody combining site. Pieces of proteins are being designed that can stick to that antibody combining side and prevent it from attaching. Novel signaling blockers, or even agonists, are looking increasingly possible.
I thought you would like to know about this little island of optimism in the midst of all the gloom. My interest in PROTEINOMICS was fueled by an excellent article in the Scientific American July 2021 issue, by science journalist Rowan Jacobson, who presents the story in a very interesting fashion. I would very much recommend the reading of this article.
Highly Vaccinated States Keep Worst Covid-19 Outcomes in Check as Delta Spreads, WSJ Analysis Shows
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Across the country, states are shelling out incentives ranging from free beer to $1 million lotteries to encourage residents to get their Covid-19 shots. But is the effort to boost vaccination rates working? And is it worth the cost? Photo composite: Adam Falk/The Wall Street Journal