mRNA Vaccines

It would seem to me that some caution as to the new mRNA-type vaccines is warranted. This is not to be confused with anti-vaxxer CT nonsense generally. Because conventional vaccines have an very extensive history, have been used billions of times over the course of a century or so, and have been extremely intensely studied, investigated, discussed, debated, litigated, etc. etc. But mRNA technology is relatively new. Per Wikipedia:

Up until 2020, these mRNA biotech companies had poor results testing mRNA drugs for cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases; selected targets for cancer; and like Crigler–Najjar syndrome, with most finding that the side-effects of mRNA insertion were too serious. mRNA vaccines for human use have been developed and tested for the diseases rabies, Zika, cytomegalovirus, and influenza, although none of these had previously been adopted for widespread use. Many large pharmaceutical companies abandoned the technology, while some biotechs re-focused on the less profitable area of vaccines, where the doses would be at lower levels and side-effects reduced.

Before December 2020, no mRNA drug or vaccine had been licensed for use in humans, but both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech were close to securing emergency use authorization for their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, which had been funded by Operation Warp Speed (directly in the case of Moderna and indirectly for Pfizer/BioNTech). On 2 December 2020, seven days after its final eight-week trial, the UK’s MHRA, became the first global medicines regulator in history to approve an mRNA vaccine, granting “emergency authorization” for BioNTech/Pfizer’s B"Verbeke_2019"62b2 COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use. MHRA CEO June Raine said “no corners have been cut in approving it”, and that, “the benefits outweigh any risk”.

So this is a technology which has never been found to be safe or effective for humans, and is being pressed into use due to the severity of the pandemic. In particular, the longer term effects of doing this would seem to be impossible to gauge.

Leaving aside whether it’s the right thing for the governments to roll out mass vaccinations under these circumstances, where it comes to a head the decision of each individual as to whether to take it.

As an example, I myself have already had covid, and I probably already have most or all of the benefits that might be conferred by vaccinations, and taking it would largely be just a civic exercise of some sort. I’m not in any rush.

So it could be a danger, but the CDC and the UK equivalent do not think so.

There is no live virus involved, so in many ways these are safer vaccines than some of the older ones.

This is a new tool and an exciting one. The promise of newer and better vaccines using mRNA is pretty rosy.

In your example, you need to make your choice for yourself, but may have had it and had it are not the same.

The CDC and UK equivalent are looking at this as a balance of pandemic risk versus vaccine risk. And the pandemic risk is a definite right now while the vaccine risk is an unknown in the future.

That’s not saying that there’s no danger. That’s just saying that our best guess is that the vaccine risk is lower than the pandemic risk.

There is no live virus involved, so in many ways these are safer vaccines than some of the older ones.

This is a new tool and an exciting one. The promise of newer and better vaccines using mRNA is pretty rosy.

That’s very possible. But the history of medicine is full of new and exciting tools which seemed pretty rosy and which turned out to be complicated in ways which were not immediately apparent.

[Semi-related side note: One book which made a big impression on me in this respect is The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. He traces the history of scientific understanding of cancer, and shows how again and again medical science thought it finally understood cancer and how it could be overcome, only to see over and over again that the new understanding was still incomplete and/or incorrect.]

In your example, you need to make your choice for yourself, but may have had it and had it are not the same.


It’s theoretically safer, but do we really know it to be true? We used testing protocols for traditional vaccines to test these new vaccines, but these are not traditional vaccines. How do we know the protocols are sufficient? It’s less than ideal that we are going to have basically millions of early adopters of this new technology. The scope of any unanticipated side-effects could be vast.

We’re injecting (as I understand it) directions for your cells to make DNA for a piece of the virus. The fact that we can do that is both exciting (The time to market of this vaccine is wonderful, and I imagine all kinds of other positive results of this technology may be coming soon) but also terrifying. There’s so much we don’t know about the human body, any new medical technology is always fraught with uncertainty.

I am rarely an early adopter of anything. I expect to eventually get one of these vaccines, but not for a while.

Not quite. The antigen for all of the major vaccines we’re hearing about so far is the Spike protein. So the aim is to induce your body to make protein, not make DNA.

The natural cellular process is DNA>mRNA>protein. A gene from the very long DNA “library” in your genome is transcribed into messenger RNA, the messenger RNA is then translated into protein. DNA is stable, mRNA is temporary copy that’s naturally less stable.

The Pfizer & Moderna vaccines inject stabilized mRNA directly, in a coating that allows it to enter the cell, where the natural cellular protein production machinery translates it into protein.

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses an adenovirus vector, which is DNA. In this case, the cellular machinery carries out both steps, transcribing the DNA to mRNA then translating the mRNA to protein.

One thing that’s intrinsically very safe with these approaches is that it’s completely impossible that you could catch a coronavirus infection from them. They do not use coronavirus at all, either live or attenuated. Just one gene.

The safety issues mentioned in the Wikipedia article are for using mRNA to treat disease, where you presumably need repeated, large doses to get cells producing proteins they are currently not producing. You also have a challenge if these proteins need to be produced in specific cells.

Any serious, immediate effects from the vaccines would show up in the large trials that have been done. That doesn’t mean there can’t be rare and/or mild side effects, but that’s true for all vaccines for novel diseases. But we’re talking about injecting substances that are very close to substances our cells are full of, so I doubt there will be any unknown long-term effects. This stuff will be broken down and and reused just like all the other mRNA in our body and the components are indistinguishable from our own nucleotides.

I’m running out of energy disputing people who seem determined to believe the worst, that lack of perfect information means that these vaccines aren’t going to do what we need, or that something awful will probably happen.

Something awful is happening.

If you guys don’t want the vaccine, you’re just moving me up one place in the long queue, I’m happy to take your dose. With demand far outstripping supply, it’s largely a personal decision at this stage, the question of herd immunity comes later. The skeptics can take the risk of catching COVID for an extra few months if they want to, I’m happy to take their does and take the miniscule risk from the vaccine and be part of the process of accumulating whatever amount of safety data they feel comfortable with.

And just to add, no DNA vaccine has ever previously been approved for use in humans, either. So if you believe OP’s fearmongering, avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine too.

Here’s a list of vaccines in development, showing the technology used. If you feel competent to judge that older technology is safer, and you want to avoid mRNA or DNA vaccines, look for “inactivated” or “live-attenuated” type.

Something awful might happen. Sorry you are completely sure it’s impossible but it’s not. What we know right now is that there isn’t any common, immediate side effects from the vaccine.

This lack of reading comprehension is the other reason I’m running out of energy fighting ignorance on these issues.

If you feel competent to judge that the risk from taking the vaccine outweighs the risk from the disease - which has far greater uncertainty, and may also include long term effects that have not yet come to light - feel free to move to the back of the queue for the vaccine. So long as demand exceeds supply for the vaccine, it’s largely a question of personal protection anyway, it doesn’t matter that much who exactly gets the early doses and who gets the later doses in progress toward herd immunity.

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This makes sense. Benefit - risk ratio is less for people who have already had COVID.

If you put yourself at the end of the line, risk will be less, because if one of the first generation vaccines turns out to have some moderate drawback, you won’t get that one. And the benefit will probably be more because your natural immunity may by then be wearing off.

Me, I have some severe COVID risk factors (number one, age), but none not represented in the study populations. And I know I don’t have COVID antibodies due to periodic testing at time of blood donation. So I want a mRNA vaccine ASAP.

Thanks, I will feel free to make my own decision. Thanks again, ever so much.

But you’re the one with reading comprehension problems. No one in this thread is fearmongering or demanding perfect information. You are dismissing all concerns out of hand. The risk of this disease is minimal to the majority of the population.

And this right here is an example of the baffling “logic” of the “don’t worry about it” crowd. We have decades of experience with those types of vaccines. But this is some new thing, so it’s safer because new. ???

The new stuff lacks certain known features that have caused problems in the past. So those particular problems are known to not be possible to occur in an mRNA vax. Unlike with an attenuated virus vax, a killed virus vax, or a substitute virus vax.

Might there be other problems we don’t yet know about that are unique to mRNA vax’s? Certainly.

You seem to be assuming the latter is huge and the former is zero. Others are asserting the former is known to be non-zero and the latter is unknown, but at least bounded to not be huge, quickly manifesting, and commonplace. This just based on the testing to date.

The net of the two will determine which is actually better once we have years of experience time billions of doses delivered.

But at least out of the box we have some known factors going in a favorable direction versus the more traditional formulations. Plus as you say, some as yet unknown factors that might go in the opposite direction.

There is also the non-trivial fact that we have a decent handle on why those other techniques have the problem they have. Our collective knowledge of biology is far from complete. But there are not any known plausible mechanisms by which an mRNA vax can run amok. Not to say it categorically can’t do so, but rather if it does it’ll be plowing new ground in our understanding of immune system functioning.

You understand it is the Live Virus that caused a lot of problems with some early vaccines don’t you? I figured anyone in a thread like that would know that part.

That’s kind of my take. My place in the queue is pretty close to the end. I’m terrified of catching this disease.

There are risks. If I had already recovered from covid-19, I might choose to wait. But i haven’t. And i have good reasons to fear it.

Because it has fewer parts. The risk i am most worried about is that a vaccine will increase the risk of a deadly over-reaction by the immune system. But that would be a risk with any kind of vaccine.

The mRNA vaccine actually has fewer things likely to cause problems than most vaccines have. Yes, there are always unknown unknowns. But there are a lot of well understood potential problems that an mRNA vaccine can’t have. For instance, a batch of killed virus that wasn’t sufficiently killed and gives you the disease. For instance, an allergy to chickens that the flu virus was grown in. For instance, having previous immunity to the adenovirus carrier and therefore “fighting off the vaccine” before developing immunity to the added covid bit.

Despite the risks, my current preference is the Moderna vaccine. I doubt I can get it. (It will all be fine before my turn comes up) but if enough people like you want to wait, my odds improve.

Well, maybe I have a hole in my memory. Was a live virus a problem with a vaccine in the last 30-40 years?

Well, I’m not. The former is close to zero, at least if we’d gone through normal safety processes, and the latter is unknown.