Can there be long term side effects? Where does the bizarre microchip theory come from?

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With the rollout of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine this week, 53% of KentOnline readers are still skeptical about its safety.

So we spoke with Professor Martin Michaelis, a virologist from the University of Kent, about the various concerns surrounding the vaccine.

What are vaccines and how do they work?

Vaccines are usually made with dead or inactive viruses injected into the body. This “triggers” the immune system to react as if the body is infected to create immunity.

The Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is different – it uses the virus’ mRNA instead of dead or inactive cells.

This is similar to the DNA and RNA found in human cells, which act as a genetic template for the proteins that make up the virus – so the immune system responds to the template of the virus instead of the virus itself. .

The delicate mRNA is injected into the body enclosed in lipid nanoparticles, a type of fat. It is normal for lipids and mRNA to be found in the body and they are broken down incredibly easily.

How the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine works Image: PA Graphics.How the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine works Image: PA Graphics.
How the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine works Image: PA Graphics.

Are we just the guinea pig of the new vaccine?

No, months of testing thousands of people have ensured that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Vaccine trials usually begin with testing on small animals such as mice or rabbits. If this does not produce any negative reactions, the first phase begins where 10 to 100 healthy candidates are given the vaccine to see if it is safe in humans.

If so, test phase two on 100,000 to 1,000 people, then phase 3 on 1,000 to 100,000 people with more emphasis on the difference in response between children, adults and the elderly.

To test the effectiveness, some people are given the real vaccine and others a placebo. No one knows who has the vaccine until someone is infected with Covid-19 and the reaction is studied.

In the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine trials, only 94 of 43,538 participants have contracted Covid-19 since July.

Microscopic view of the coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract.  Image: iStockMicroscopic view of the coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract.  Image: iStock
Microscopic view of the coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Image: iStock

But how do we know the vaccine is safe after being shipped in just 10 months?

After the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014/15, the rVSV Ebola vaccine completed all three trials within 12 months. This makes the 10 months of the Covid-19 vaccine impressive but not impossible.

Although this particular vaccine took months to be approved, the model for the mRNA vaccine and other types of coronavirus is not new – so this vaccine is years of research underway.

Dr Martin Michaelis added: “There are two main reasons why this has been possible. The first is money. There has never been so much money invested in a single health related project as I can remember. It was an unprecedented effort.

“The other reason it’s been so quick is that we have a pandemic. If you have a disease like Ebola, you only have these relatively small outbreaks to test for. West Africa had between 25,000 and 30,000 cases. This is clearly not much yet when the vaccines have been tested in over 50,000 people. It is very difficult to put the numbers together.

“But if you have millions and millions of people infected, you can do such a test much faster. ”

“Your average lunch is much more dangerous than this vaccine. If you started scrutinizing everything you do like you would with this vaccine, you wouldn’t be eating bacon …

Are long term side effects, stronger virus development or annual vaccines possible?

Dr Michaelis says: “Of course you are never 100% sure. The question is which risk is higher. The most difficult myths to debunk are those for which there is not the slightest evidence that this could happen.

“Your average lunch is much more dangerous than this vaccine. If you start looking at everything you do like you would with this vaccine, you wouldn’t be eating bacon. You wouldn’t be doing so many things.

Dr Michaelis believes there is no reason to suspect that long-term side effects will be caused by the vaccine, as fat and mRNA are not unusual to find in the body.

A stronger virus that develops later is possible but will likely lead to the development of another vaccine, in the same way that new strains of influenza are treated.

Immunity wears off and the necessary annual vaccination is also a possibility. But the goal of the vaccine now is not just to immunize people, but to reduce cases so the virus can be more easily controlled through contact tracing so the lockdown can end.

Vaccinations are due to start this week Image: PAVaccinations are due to start this week Image: PA
Vaccinations are due to start this week Image: PA

Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

Vaccines do not cause autism. This myth came from a 1998 study published by Andrew Wakefield and 12 colleagues claiming there was a link between the massive rollout of the MMR vaccine in 1988 and the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism.

Dr Wakefield’s methods have proven to be far below standard, and funding for an anti-vaccine lawyer has been discovered. The article has been withdrawn, 10 of the 13 authors have revoked their contributions and Wakefield’s license to practice has been withdrawn. In 2004, a committee of the Institute of Medicine released the “Vaccines and Autism” report showing that there was no connection between the two.

But that was not enough to combat the fear generated by the Wakefield study reported in the media. Childhood immunizations have dropped to 80% across the UK – well below the World Health Organization (WHO) 95% recommendation – causing further measles outbreaks and deaths.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital said: “We believe [the rise in autism diagnosis] is probably due to increased awareness and recognition rather than an actual increase in the number of children. ”

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How do we know there is no microchip?

The theory that a microchip will be implanted with the Covid-19 vaccine to monitor, track or record people arose from a widely shared article in March.

The article linked to the suggestion of prominent health philanthropist Bill Gates that “digital certificates to show who has recovered or who has been recently tested” could be drawn for those vaccinated, invisible tattoos containing records of vaccines being tested in a study funded by the Gates Foundation, but not deployed.

There is no evidence that a coordinated effort to mass chip (or tattoo) people exists or is scientifically feasible – especially not from those pushing the theory. But that hasn’t stopped it from spreading.

Dr Michaelis said: “I understand the skeptics. You can get something injected into your body and you don’t really know what it is. Then when you start to search the web you find all kinds of weird information.

“I still feel a bit flattered actually by [the microchip] idea because, as a scientist, people who think I’m capable of doing such a thing means that they have very high regard for me. You can’t get a microchip through a vaccine needle. It is not possible. ”

Mass deployment plans are starting to take shape in the UK Photo: PA Images / David CheskinMass deployment plans are starting to take shape in the UK Photo: PA Images / David Cheskin
Mass deployment plans are starting to take shape in the UK Photo: PA Images / David Cheskin

I still don’t feel comfortable with the vaccine – what am I supposed to trust?

No one can force you to get the vaccine – but the sooner it is deployed, the sooner life can return to some sort of normal.

Dr Michaelis added: “These vaccines are safe. I’ll have one, my kids will have one, I’ll tell my parents to have one. I am convinced that everyone should be vaccinated.

“But you have to be critical. When trying to get more information, don’t go to a random YouTube video where someone explains something that may or may not be true.

“Look for reasonable sources, look at the WHO, look at sources on Wikipedia, look at what different scientists are saying. All the research on Covid-19 is open access so you can read everything that is known about Covid-19 and you can really do it in your mind.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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