Molecular Virologist Dispels Myths Surrounding COVID Vaccines

Mar 17, 2021, 8:12 AM
FILE (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)...
FILE (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – More than 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Utah, with three different vaccines available.

As more people are being immunized, though, there are still a few myths surrounding the vaccine.

Josh Anderson, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Brigham Young University, has a PhD in molecular virology. He wanted to dispel some of the myths that have been circulating.

“Laboratories that were completely focused on other diseases have dropped those projects to focus solely on SARS-CoV-2 to figure out how it works, how immunity develops against it,” he said. “Global cooperation is what really allowed this to happen in the window of time that we’ve had.”

According to coronavirus.utah.gov, the vaccines have been clinically tested and do not pose safety concerns for any one group of people.

“No steps were skipped developing COVID-19 vaccines,” health officials report. “Scientists around the world have been working on this technology for more than a decade. This is why it was possible to make a safe and effective vaccine available very quickly.”

Anderson said there have been no deaths linked to the COVID-19 vaccines.

He also noted the ingredients aren’t strange or scary. Those ingredients are listed by the FDA and are standard as far as vaccines go.

According to coronavirus.utah.gov, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are comprised of:

  • mRNA – This messenger RNA (mRNA) is for the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s the instructions for your body to make the protein to fight the virus if you become infected.

  • Lipids – These are like little “bubbles of fat” which surround the mRNA like a protective wall. The lipid molecules can’t dissolve in water. They protect the mRNA so that it does not break down before it gets into our cells. There are four different lipids in the Pfizer vaccine and three in the Moderna vaccine. One of the lipids in both vaccines is cholesterol. The lipids are the most likely components of the vaccine to cause allergic reactions.

  • Salts and amines – The Pfizer vaccine contains four salts. One is table salt. The salts are used to keep the pH of the vaccine similar to that found in the body, so that the vaccine does not damage cells when it is administered. The Moderna vaccine also contains four chemicals to balance the pH, but two are in a class of organic compounds known as “amines” and two are acetic acid and its salt form, sodium acetate. Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar (other than water).

  • Sugar – This ingredient is literally the same as that which you put in your coffee or on your cereal. It is used in both of the vaccines to help keep the “bubbles of fat” from sticking to each other or to the sides of the vaccine vial.

The vaccines also cannot give a person COVID-19, since there is no COVID-19 present. Anderson said any symptoms a person feels is just a sign that the body is building its immunity.

“The spike protein cannot turn into the virus,” he said. “So these effects – the aches and chills people feel for a few hours after the vaccine – are really just a symptom of our immune system springing into action and responding to that spike protein.”

Anderson said those who have had COVID-19 vaccine should consider getting vaccinated because studies so far show immunity from contracted the virus might not last that long.

SARS-CoV-2 could be around forever, he added, similar to the SARS virus that causes the common cold.

There is a lot more to study and learn about the virus and the vaccines, but the worldwide effort has led to an unprecedented feat of creating an effective way to combat the pandemic.

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Molecular Virologist Dispels Myths Surrounding COVID Vaccines