written 6 December 2020
published 13 December 2020
The first case of Covid-19 was recorded in China on November 17th, 2019. Despite initial attempts at secrecy by local authorities, the Chinese national government announced the problem to the world on December 31st. Samples were shared globally, and within weeks the entire genetic sequence was determined.
Research labs around the world began designing vaccines, and multiple companies went into production. Phase 1 trials started in mid-March, with a few dozen participants in each, testing for safety, dosage levels, and confirmation of immune system activation. Phase 2 trials began the first week of May, using hundreds of participants with diverse health characteristics, as an expanded safety trial. Phase 3 trials began in late July, involving tens of thousands of people. The first preliminary results were announced in mid-November, and compete data from several different vaccines was released a few weeks later. England has already approved a vaccine for distribution, and US FDA approval should be granted about the time this article is published, however, mass production and vaccination of the entire population will take many more months.
Our bodies have two immune systems, the innate, with which we are born, and the adaptive, which develops over time in response to changing conditions. The adaptive system, comprised of specialized lymphocyte cells designated B and T, is always searching for foreign cellular material. When B cells encounter something, they create antibodies, which biochemically match, and lock onto, part of the target cell. This effectively attaches a flag to the disease cell, telling the T cells to kill it and take out the trash. Our bodies remember antibody patterns, but it takes time for production to ramp up, delaying protection against infection.
Vaccines use safe examples of a disease, usually weakened or dead cells, to teach our body about a germ, allowing antibody production to get ahead of the curve. Historically, vaccines production has taken years because manufacture required cultivation in horse blood serum or egg yolks. To speed production, these new vaccines use advance biochemical techniques to synthetically manufacture the piece of RNA genetic code which directs construction of the protein forming the spikes on the surface of the Covid virus.
Billions of this piece of code, each protected in a small globe of fat, are injected into the muscles of a patient, which then move to the interior of their cells. Once inside, cell biochemistry reads the RNA and produces the spike proteins. These proteins then trigger antibody creation, preparing the body to fend off invasion of the actual Covid viruses. In regular vaccines, a protection rate of better than 50 percent is considered a success. These synthetic RNA vaccines seem to provide better than 90 percent protection.
The modern miracle of complete genetic sequencing, rapid vaccine production, with the projected protection levels, couldn't have been accomplished even a decade ago. This resulted from constantly evolving medical science, the very science that a large portion of our Trump believing population has denied and belittled. It is sadly amusing to see how Trump took credit for pushing the "warp speed" program that helped produce these vaccines, and was upset that it didn't arrive in time to help get him re-elected, yet still denies the seriousness of the pandemic, and belittles the scientific medical community that produced this miracle.
The conspiracy addicted portion of our society is already building resistance to vaccination. They distrust all science and medicine, while expecting the benefits of living in the modern world. This will make dealing with Covid more difficult. Estimates are that at least 70 percent of the population should be vaccinated to make sure community spread is eliminated. Without that, hospitals will continue to be assaulted, and perhaps collapse, and real economic recovery will be delayed.
There are still difficult times ahead. The surge in the US, already the worst it has been, is growing larger daily. The logistics of rapidly vaccinating everyone has never before been attempted. These vaccines need to be kept unusually cold or they become ineffective. So far, there has been no mention of cost, and big pharma has a history of price gouging. The test trails are small compared to the entire population, so there could be unknown side effects. But with all that, this is still a time for hope.