A critical piece of information about the new vaccines

Thanks to President Trump's fast-tracking the process for developing and approving vaccines in America, we currently have two anti-COVID vaccines available, one from Moderna and one from Pfizer.  Both of these vaccines use mRNA to trigger the body's immune response by giving the body instructions to create certain proteins.  Because mRNA is the instrument by which our bodies express their genetic instructions, many people have become concerned that the new vaccines will actually alter their body's DNA.  That's not the case; they're just a shortcut to the body's usual response to a traditional vaccine.

Traditional vaccines inject viruses that have been weakened, or "attenuated," so they cannot cause serious illness, against which the host creates antibodies.  These vaccines don't inject enough viral material to stimulate an immune response.  Instead, the weakened viruses in traditional vaccines do exactly what naturally occurring pathogenic viruses do — they multiply in the host.  The weakened viruses do this by producing mRNA that tricks the hosts into making enough of the proteins (and lots of new, live virus particles) to stimulate our bodies to create antibodies and mount an immune response that is then effective against the original disease-causing virus when and if it tries to invade

What the new mRNA vaccines are doing is leapfrogging over the intermediate, time-consuming, unpredictable, and potentially dangerous step of waiting for injected viruses to multiply and do their thing.  Instead, the new vaccines introduce mRNA engineered to mimic the mRNA that the live viruses would have produced. 

This engineered mRNA consistently, quickly, and predictably triggers production of a protein that looks just like one that exists on an intact virus.  That protein stimulates an immune response to intact viruses without actually injecting either a weakened or theoretically dead virus into the body.  The engineered mRNA cannot itself cause the disease, and it vanishes in short order.

Understanding how the mRNA works — that it tricks the body into learning how to defend against a virus without exposure to actual viruses or any changes to genetic DNA — makes the criticism of the new vaccines much less persuasive.  I am in awe of the brilliance behind this advanced vaccine therapy.

Since I am in my 70s, I was able to qualify for the new vaccine.  I got my second Moderna shot last week and felt slightly achy and flu-ish the following day.  Now, though, I am absolutely delighted that I have put most of the risk of this plague to me personally behind me.  I have also contributed my small part to letting our desperately sick society heal from the damage inflicted by politicians and Tony Fauci.

Stephen Leonard is a retired surgeon and active aviation medical examiner and pilot, living in Idaho.

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