Monday 25 January 2021

Covidiot News - The Myths the Fruitloops are Falling For

Not sure about the Pfizer vaccine, now it's been approved in Australia? You can scratch these 4 concerns straight off your list

Writing for an primarily Australian readership, Archa Fox, Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia, exposes the nonsense behind four myths concerning the Pfizer ant-Covid mRNA vaccine about to be rolled out in Australia.

Sadly, Australia has a few pockets of QAnon conspiracists who are promulgating these myths, some of which leave you wondering what it is that could induce these idiots to believe this stuff. But then, Australia also has more than its fair share of fundamentalist Christians, Young Earth Creationists and probably flat-earthers too. Scientific illiteracy and bottomless credulity are not confined to Bible-belt USA.

Firstly, a little bit of information about what the vaccines are and how they work. Bear with me if you already understand this stuff.

All the vaccines so far authorised are based on mRNA technology and result in your cells manufacturing a viral protein that your immune system recognises as a foreign protein, so produces antibodies to make them harmless. To understand how they work you need to understand a little about how your cells normally produce proteins.

When a cell needs to make a particular protein, an enzyme called transcriptase transcribes the section of your DNA that carries the instructions for that protein and creates a strand of RNA that carries those instructions to cell organelles caller ribosomes. This RNA is a chain of nucleotides in a precise sequence determined by the strand of DNA transcribed. Because this is the RNA that carries instructions from the DNA in the cell nucleus to the ribosomes, it is called 'messenger' RNA or mRNA for short. The ribosomes 'read' the mRNA and assemble a protein from amino acids according to the genetic code, where every triplet of nucleotides codes for a particular amino acid or some other instruction, like STOP.

Because the mRNA in the vaccines contains instructions for producing only the virus 'spike' proteins, it can do nothing other than make copies of those proteins which are, themselves, harmless.

The trick is to get the mRNA inside your cells so it can produce these foreign proteins. Once your body had been tricked into making these proteins your immune system will start to make antibodies against them. If you then become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus your immune system will recognise and attack the 'spike' proteins on its surface making it difficult for the virus to get its own RNA inside your cells to start making copies of itself.
The main myths are:
  1. They enter your DNA and change your genome.

    mRNA is not DNA. This myth could have its origins in information about how HIV can insert itself into the genome. However, HIV is a retrovirus that contains genes that make an enzyme called reverse transcriptase that creates a strand of DNA that itself codes for the HIV RNA, and inserts it into the cell's DNA, in the reverse process to the way transcriptase translates DNA to mRNA. SARS-CoV-2 does not contain reverse transcriptase, nor do the mRNA vaccines, so there is no way the mRNA in the vaccine can mimic a retrovirus.

    The vaccine does not change your DNA in any way.

    There is a vanishingly small possibility of this happening if you happen to be infected with a retrovirus in the same cells in the same few hours that the vaccine's mRNA is active. It is theoretically possible then that the retrovirus' reverse transcriptase could make a DNA version of the mRNA and insert it into your genome, where it would be harmless anyway and would probably enhance your immune system's response to SARS-CoV-2 even further. The vaccine's mRNA only remains active for a few hours and is then destroyed in the same way other mRNA is destroyed after it has served its purpose.
  2. They connect you to the internet.

    This is one of the more paranoid myths being promulgated in disinformation sources. Considering the amount and complexity of the micro-electronic circuitry that would be needed to make devices small enough to be injected, it is inconceivable that the vaccines containing them could churn out the millions of doses currently being manufactured and distributed, even if the technology existed to do so.

    It's difficult to imagine the ignorant incredulity of people who can take this claim seriously, but then the same people often believe Donald Trump really won last November and is even still president in secret, and even that the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax perpetrated by Satanic baby-eating paedophiles within the 'deep state' elites.

    Professor Fox suggests it could have its origins in the fact that some vaccine manufacturers are experimenting with using 'hydrogels' to coat the mRNA to make it easier to get the mRNA into your cells. Hydrogels are used in some stem cell implants to help them survive inside the recipient's body. This could have fed into the myth that the vaccine is really some sort of implant. None of the vaccines approved to date use hydrogels.
  3. They cause autoimmune disease.

    Autoimmune diseases are chronic diseases where our body's immune system turns against your body. There is no evidence to suggest that mRNA vaccines can induce an autoimmune response, which normally requires a prolonged exposure to a foreign agent to produce an autoimmune response and the vaccines mRNA is very short-lived inside your cells.

    Infact, there are experimental procedures, in the early stages of development, using mRNA to treat some autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
  4. They make you infertile.

    The myth is that the antibodies produced in response to the vaccines attack the placenta and so will cause infertility. This myth could have its origins in a tiny grain of truth - there is a protein in the placenta called syncitin-1 that has a very short sequence of 5 or 6 amino acids where 4 or five amino acids are the same as a small part of the SARS-CoV-2 'spike' protein, so an antibody 'programmed' to recognise this sequence could also mistake the syncitin-1 for the viral 'spike' protein. However, with all proteins being composed of just 20 amino acids the probability of two proteins having a short sequence of just a few amino acids in common is very high, and antibodies don't just respond to very short sequences of amino acids. If this were true, the common cold, which is often caused by a coronavirus, would result in mass infertility, and this is not what we see in reality.

    like the first three myths, this one is just another invention of the antivaxxer conspiracy theorists intended to appeal to a paranoid and gullible audience.
The coronavirus pandemic is one of the worst dissaters to befall the human species, probably since the Black Death and has so far infected aproaching 100 million people, of whom 2.1 million have died.

In the USA alone, there have been over 35 million cases and rapidly approaching 500,000 deaths. The UK has had 2.1 million cases so far and the number of deaths is expected to exceed 100,000 in the next few days. [Update 26 Jan, 2021: The number of deaths in the UK has just exceeded 100,000] (source: Johns Hopkins University Corona Virus Resource Center (25 Jan, 2021)

The late Gary Matthews. "A kind and gentle man who wanted a better world" but believed the pandemic was a myth and part of a sinister conspiracy. He had tested positive and died alone in his flat of Covid-19 on January 13th, 2021.
Photo: Tristan Copeland
With the virus appearing to mutate readily to make it easier to infect people and so circumvent our only defence so far - social distancing, frequent hand-washing, wearing face-masks and restrictions on travel and trade - it is vital that as many people world-wide are given some protection against it in the form of a vaccination.

Promulgating these myths and raising fear and paranoia in the minds of gullible and ignorant people will cost very many lives in an order of magnitude not seen in peacetime.

One such victim of these conspiracy theory disinformation groups such as QAnon was 46-year-old Gary Matthews, who according to this report in the Guardian, was an active QAnon conspiracy supporter and anti-vaxxer who fell for the myth that the pandemic was a hoax. He was described by his friends as a kind and gentle man who only wanted a better world. He had tested positive for Covid-19 a few days earlier and was self-isolating. He died alone in his flat in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England on January 13th, a victim of the coronavirus and the hoaxers who suckered him.

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