Starting with the bottom line: I will likely try to get vaccination against “the Coof” as soon as it’s generally available, and – since there are 3 likely candidates – I’ll probably attempt to find the Oxford/AstraZeneca version (https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55040635) for reasons outlined below.
Let me open the body of this post with two caveats:
- It’s a long post, with references, so if you’re interested, grab a seat and open up your computer – it’ll work better than your smart device.
- I am NOT a scientist, and all of my post-High School science education has been in Geology (cumulative 2 years – basically the full lower-division course catalog that was available at the University of Puget Sound circa Fall 1965 – Spring 1967. Not exactly Dark Ages, but things are a helluva lot more advanced these days!). I definitely would welcome comment from actual scientists, or anyone else with either advanced degrees or more recent education in the bio sciences.
As we approach 2021 and the anticipated more widespread release of COVID-19 vaccine (I typically refer to that specific ailment as CCP-19, since COVID – an acronym for Corona Virus Disease – is a causal description, while CCP – an acronym for the Chinese Communist Party [who we have to thank for releasing the virus and then hiding information about it while it spread world-wide] is a source description) I’ve been doing a bit of casual (not causal) research about the different vaccine options since I hope that personal choice on vaccination in general, and the specific type of vaccine in particular, is a set of decision options that will soon be available.
Of the three likely US-available candidates, two – the Pfizer and Moderna offerings – use cutting-edge messenger RNA (mRNA) technology (see http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/rna-vaccines-a-novel-technology-to-prevent-and-treat-disease/), which involves injections of engineered RNA molecules into your blood. This RNA will enter your cells and instruct your cells to manufacture non-infective DNA (gene) fragments of the novel Corona Virus to which your body will then develop natural antigens, helping to prevent and/or lessen the severity of infection by CCP-19.
The third likely candidate, the Oxford/AstraZeneca offering, uses a modified common cold virus (see https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/common_cold_causes) sometimes found in Chimpanzees as a non-infective stimulus to encourage your body to develop antigens to help prevent and/or lessen the severity of infection by CCP-19.
For a comparison of the three candidates, see https://www.bustle.com/wellness/covid-19-vaccine-differences-cost-efficacy-side-effects-comparison.
My back-of-the-napkin risk-benefit analysis of the three candidates is as follows (I’m gonna treat the Pfizer and Moderna candidates as relatively equal, from my perspective as a patient, since they appear to be approximately equally effective – around 95% – and they use very similar mRNA technologies. From a societal cost and practicality of distribution perspective, it appears that there may be advantages to the Moderna offering since it can be stored and transported in commercially available refrigeration units, while the Pfizer offering requires custom refrigeration capable of maintaining temperatures of nearly -100F – think record central Antarctica low temps! – for transport and storage):
- mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) offerings:
- Simple to manufacture, and simple to adapt to genetic mutations of SARS CoV 2 (the specific corona virus that causes CCP-19)
- Widely available from US manufacturers
- Already under consideration for Emergency Use approval by US regulatory agencies
- Highest reported effectiveness, based on currently available studies
- mRNA appears to naturally degrade or be destroyed by cellular mechanics over very short periods and does not appear to offer high risk of permanent DNA (genetic) modification in the patient
- A cutting edge technology that has never been widely deployed. Potential impact is unknown, but seems to probably be pretty low.
- Although virus-induced development of new genetic material (DNA) from RNA building blocks is very rarely encountered (only observed to date in HIV-type viruses), the risk of such an occurrence is significantly less than zero. The potential impact of such an occurrence could be very high indeed – I’ll leave those possibilities to your imagination.
- Traditional (AstraZeneca) offering:
- Technology that has long been in use. This seems to be the same technology used in vaccines ever since development of Smallpox vaccine, although updated by genetic sequencing from the old “Well, let’s try Cow Pox and see what happens” days.
- Effectiveness of about 90% (using the low-dose/high-dose regimen) that is very close to the demonstrated effectiveness of the mRNA offerings (@95%)
- No apparent risk beyond that of currently common vaccines for other diseases of initiating genetic modifications in the patient
- Common Cold Corona Virus variants mutate fairly rapidly, and we have already seen multiple mutations of the SARS CoV2 variant. Over the course of many months, this could cause fairly rapid degradation of the effectiveness of “traditional” single-variant non-infective vaccine agents.
As stated in the introduction, my initial preference will likely be the AstraZeneca offering (subject, of course, to additional information as time passes). Over time, with confirmation of no long term issues, it only makes sense to adopt the mRNA technologies since they are so much more specific and adaptable to changes in the genetic composition of the Corona Virus family over time.