What is in the Covid Vaccines?

Army Col. Sean Dooley, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, receives a COVID-19 vaccination, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

 

For many people around the world, this has been an exceptionally frightening year. From the first indications of a new virus emerging in China, to the slow trickle of reports as it arrived in countries around the world, and finally the lockdowns, sicknesses, and deaths that became daily news as the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the globe. Many of us have lost ones we loved, our jobs, or our sanity as the days go by and our lives continue to be disrupted by this new virus. 

As the end of the year approached, two vaccines appeared that promised to help end the suffering and finally get this disease under control. But to many, this seemed like it had to be rushed. Adding to that uncertainty, the average person doesn’t have the education to understand what is in these vaccines that they were suddenly being asked to trust. Conspiracy theories abounded and distrust swelled, threatening to upend the vaccination program.

Both vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective in large trials, and have already been given to tens of millions of people! Even so, as a healthcare provider, I know the importance of what is referred to as “informed consent.” It means that it is your responsibility to educate your patient to a level where their agreeing to a treatment is based on generally knowing what is being done to them, including the risks they face by allowing that treatment to go forward. I believe that the ingredients within the two emergency approved vaccines should be readily available, and there should be a basic explanation of what those ingredients are. 

The Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 has been scary enough; the ingredients within the vaccines don’t have to be as well. What follows is a very simplified breakdown of the ingredients within the first two vaccines to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine:

 

Simple ingredient list of both vaccines:

  • mRNA – The active ingredient
  • Lipids, a different word for fats
  • Salts
  • Sugar

 

Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a single-stranded RNA molecule that is complementary to one of the DNA strands of a gene. The mRNA is an RNA version of the gene that leaves the cell nucleus and moves to the cytoplasm where proteins are made. During protein synthesis, an organelle called a ribosome moves along the mRNA, reads its base sequence, and uses the genetic code to translate each three-base triplet, or codon, into its corresponding amino acid.
https://www.genome.gov/

Further Breakdown

  1. Messenger-RNA

The messenger ribo-nucleic acid (mRNA) is the true active ingredient of the vaccine.  Our body makes, uses, and then breaks down natural mRNA constantly in order to function. Think of it as a copied set of instructions that takes information from our DNA and brings it to the parts of our body where we make stuff (amino acids and eventually proteins) necessary for our survival. 

In the vaccine, scientists made a synthetic copy of these instructions that allow our body to temporarily produce a single part of the virus known as the spike protein, which is harmless on its own. Our bodies then develop an immunity against the coronavirus by identifying and building defenses against the virus from this single part. We then break down this synthetic message and stop producing the spike protein, but our defense against the disease remains. 

To better understand it, think of it like this: when we get the vaccine, we are giving our bodies a fax which allows us to print a mugshot of the virus, which then allows our immune system to know the enemy we are up against in precise detail. 

 

  1. Lipids (Fats) 

These are just pieces of fat that allow our cells to absorb the messenger-RNA so that they can start making the spike proteins for our body to develop immunity. Using the analogy from the previous item in our list, you can think of these fat particles as the fax number that allows the vaccine to send the mugshot to your fax machine. 

 

  1. Salts

These salts allow the vaccine to have the same level of acidity as our bodies, which keeps it from causing harm inside of us when it is injected. The reason why things like battery acid or bleach will harm us is because it doesn’t match our bodies acidity levels, which is why you should never inject either of them! 

 

  1. Sucrose (Sugar)

This is just like the plain old sugar we know and love, except it isn’t put in the vaccine to make it taste sweet. The vaccine has sugar in it to keep all the ingredients from clumping together when it is frozen. 

 

Full Ingredient Lists

**While these may seem to contain names that you don’t understand and that might frighten you, those are all just the scientific names for the fats and salts in the vaccines! For example, Dihydrogen Monoxide sounds very scary, until you realize it’s just the chemical name for water**

 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech: mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.
  • Moderna: mRNA, lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glyceral [DMG], cholesterol and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

 

For more information, check out these links!

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/moderna-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.fda.gov/media/144638/download

https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download#:~:text=The%20Pfizer-BioNTech%20COVID-19%20Vaccine%20includes%20the%20following%20ingredients,),%20potassium%20chloride,%20monobasic%20potassium

https://www.pfizer.com/news/hot-topics/the_facts_about_pfizer_and_biontech_s_covid_19_vaccine

https://www.modernatx.com/covid19vaccine-eua/providers/about-vaccine

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/12/09/1013538/what-are-the-ingredients-of-pfizers-covid-19-vaccine/

Re-think Genes: New Mechanism of Gene Expression Discovered

If I removed once cell at a time from your body, at what point would you not be you? catiestewart.com

If I removed once cell at a time from your body, at what point would you not be you? catiestewart.com

Researchers are on a seemingly endless quest to discover precisely how DNA and RNA function. A great deal remains a mystery in the field of genetics. In fact up until around one year ago, when scientists captured a photo of DNA, no one knew with absolute certainty what it looked like. The double helix idea was always just a theory.

In a recent ground breaking discovery researchers from the University of Chicago witnessed a never before scene mechanism of gene expression. The researchers found a single gene that encodes two separate proteins from the same sequence of messenger RNA. Let me explain.

Related Article: Women Who Give Birth to Men Have Male DNA in Their Brain for Life

This is from a nucleic acid photoshoot. www.tutorvista.com

This is from a nucleic acid photoshoot. http://www.tutorvista.com

DNA and RNA are similar in that they both contain a genetic blueprint of an organism. They do however differ in several ways. First, RNA comes in three forms: messenger, transfer, and ribosomal.

mRNA (messenger)- The function of mRNA is to carry genetic information from the DNA in the nucleus to the ribosomes of a cell.

tRNA (transfer)- The function of tRNA is to bring the correct amino acid to the ribosomes in the cystosol.

rRNA (ribosomal)- The function of rRNA is to create new ribosomes.

They also differ in that they each incorporate a different sugar molecule in their structure. Also, where DNA has two strands of nucleotides, RNA has only one strand. For the sake of simplicity think of RNA as DNA’s co-conspirator in the continuation of life. In fact, some researchers speculate that life originally depended entirely on self-replicating RNA, rather than the DNA, RNA, and proteins that it depends on to proliferate today. 

Related Article: Deep Storage Project

So, up until this point we thought we had a pretty decent, overall idea of how DNA and RNA functioned. This study just came out of left field and whispered into the collective ear of geneticists around the world: “You know nothing…”

This bundle of RNA and proteins is called a Ribisome.www.itsokaytobesmart.com

This bundle of RNA and proteins is called a Ribisome.www.itsokaytobesmart.com

The study is a big deal because it is the first time that scientists have ever viewed anything even remotely similar. According to Christopher Gomez, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Chicago, who led the study,

This is the first example of a mechanism in a higher organism in which one gene creates two proteins from the same mRNA transcript, simultaneously. It represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of how genes ultimately encode proteins.

There is a special sequence in the mRNA known as an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES), a site that tells ribosomes to create a protein from the mRNA sequence. The IRES is normally found at the beginning of an RNA sequence, however, in the particular mRNA sequence that the researchers viewed the IRES was in the middle of the sequence, alerting ribosomes to initiate the creation of a second protein from the same sequence.

Related Article: Titan’s Atmosphere Can Make DNA

This is especially exciting news since it creates a beacon of hope for further applicable genetic discovery, not just DNA origami. Just think, we only recently learned in the last couple decades that genetic predisposition isn’t set in stone, and that epigenetics allow us to alter our genetic expression and the genetic expression and predisposition of our children.

You can check your ancestry, health risks, and more through a DNA check that costs $99.

 

Sources:

http://www.newscientist.com/special/unknown-human-genome

https://wondergressive.com/news/first-time-photo-captures-double-helix-structure-of-dna/

http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2013/20130703-bifunctional-gene.html

https://wondergressive.com/news/women-who-give-birth-to-men-have-male-dna-in-brain-for-life/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNA

http://sequoyahbiology.webs.com/whatisdnaandrna.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/science/space/a-far-flung-possibility-for-the-origin-of-life.html?_r=1&

https://wondergressive.com/news/deep-storage-project/

https://wondergressive.com/news/titans-atmosphere-can-make-dna/

https://wondergressive.com/news/dna-origami-the-art-of-folding-dna/

https://wondergressive.com/news/epigenetics-the-key-to-overcoming-genetic-predisposition

https://wondergressive.com/news/epigenetics-and-altering-your-dna/

https://wondergressive.com/news/dna-ancestry-23andme/