Should I Get vaccinated- Curing the Myths of the Coronavirus Vaccine
By James Neil
Image of Covid-19 vaccination stickers| Image courtesy of John cameron via unisplash
Since 1796 when Jenner performed the first vaccination of smallpox, proving that an inactive version of a disease can help to cure its sinister cousin. We have been using vaccination to save lives and eradicate diseases. As such when the Coronavirus started to tighten its grip in Wuhan province china back in December of 2019 the world began to prepare.
Since then, various vaccinations have been developed by scientists throughout the world two of which have been approved for use in the UK. one developed by Pfizer and another by a research group at the university of oxford and now as of mid-January, vaccinations are being given throughout the country to those most vulnerable to the virus.
Despite all the good that vaccination has done, there is still fears and myths about vaccination, many being propagated due to social media outlets. It is vitally important for these vaccinations to be widespread if we are to have a chance at stopping COVID-19.
One of the oldest and more general myths about vaccinations is the belief that they cause autism in young children. This is purely circumstantial as the time that autism begins to be diagnosable in young children is around the same time that they would be getting their first shots. The original paper that suggested the link in 1998 has since been rebuked and major studies have found no evidence of a link between MMR and autism. In addition to this, the research paper that suggested this link has been debunked due to poor experimental practice and evidence since rebuking the claim.
Another fear about the COVID-19 Vaccination is how quickly it was developed. However, this simply isn’t the case. Since data became available on the genetic sequence of the virus, scientists have been working on a cure for it. The Oxford vaccine, in particular, has been worked on by internationally recognised scientists lead by; Prof Sarah Gilbert, Prof Andrew Pollard, Prof Teresa Lambe, Dr Sandy Douglas, Prof Catherine green and Prof Andrew Hill. Their team includes various experienced scientists including members that worked on the Ebola vaccine in 2014. what’s more, the technology used to create the vaccine has a proven track record developing vaccines for the Flu, Zika, MERS and a previous form of the Coronavirus. As a result, the fact we have a Virus only a year after it was discovered can be attributed to the expertise of the scientists working on it. In addition to this, scientists are used to developing Vaccines on short timeframes, the Flu Vaccine is changed every year to adapt to new strains of the disease. So, it’s no surprise that we have been able to respond with a cure so quickly. In addition to this given how important it is for us to obtain a vaccine, many of the proposal processes, the method scientists use to determine what projects get funded, have been streamlined and a large amount of money has been given to fund the research with over £6.5bn being donated by world leaders to aid the research into the coronavirus last may.
The Oxford Vaccine being rolled out across the country uses the ‘adenovirus vaccine vector’ that causes the common cold in chimpanzees, as a basis for the study. By using a well understood, safe virus and modifying it to have the same protein spikes as a coronavirus, a safe proxy version can be used to create an immune system response. This means if you were to catch the virus your immune system would be ready to fight back. Pfizer’s vaccine works in a similar way. By using a part of the DNA of the virus, unlike a traditional vaccine that uses a inert form of the virus, Pfizer’s, mRNA vaccine is able to trick the body into producing the antibodies by causing the bodies cells to present the Antigen which causes the immune system to react.
Either way they act in a similar way to Jenner’s original method and as such a technology that over 200 year old will help cure the problems of the present.