Stop shaming the vaccine hesitant. Start understanding them.

It’s hard to write a piece like this. On the one hand, I’m not a conspiracy theorist when it comes to COVID. I do know that it’s a real disease that has killed millions around the globe and that it is a global threat that we need to face and combat. It’s not hype. It’s real and we should absolutely protect ourselves from it.

I’m also not anti-vaccine. I myself would take a COVID vaccine if I felt that the risk involved in not taking it justifies the risk of taking it. I never hesitated to take a vaccine before. I think vaccines are a great human accomplishment and I do not subscribe to the overblown fears of autism or the rare side effects of conventional vaccines.

But when it comes to the available vaccines for COVID, namely the mRNA and vector DNA vaccines (which encompass all vaccines available in the US so far), I have serious reservations that can be understood and appreciated. And, no, I do not believe that they change our genetic makeup.

The mechanism of action of the Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, and AZ vaccines is such that they all rely on, or at least result in, our immune system attacking and killing our own skeletal muscle cells for us to gain immunity against COVID-19. The mechanism is simple in principle: the vaccine is made of DNA or mRNA strands enveloped either in lipid droplets or viral envelopes. The DNA/mRNA strand enters a skeletal muscle cell. That cell then uses the DNA/mRNA strand to create a foreign protein (the viral spike protein), which is then displayed on the cell’s membrane. Our T-cells recognize these proteins as foreign and, accordingly, destroy the entire skeletal muscle cell as if it were a cell that developed a DNA mutation, such as what happens to cancer cells that are cleared out by the immune system.

This is all fine until we realize a few things:

1- This is a very similar mechanism to the one by which many viral infections are believed to lead to autoimmune disease. There’s a list of viruses with which being infected leads your immune system to attack and kill the cells that the virus has infected. This would be beneficial if the immune system stops at killing infected cells and leaves the rest of the tissue alone. However, in some people the immune system instead gets “trained” to attack and kill all cells of the type that was infected (and sometimes other cell types too) whether they were infected with the virus or not. Many autoimmune diseases are thought to originate by such a mechanism.

One might argue that the human immune system is always destroying mutated cells in our bodies, and that’s true, but skeletal muscle cells don’t multiply, so they don’t mutate nearly as often as multiplying cells. Indeed, malignant tumors originating from cells that don’t normally multiply, such as rhabdomyosarcomas (skeletal muscle tumors), generally have poor prognoses, which could be because our immune systems aren’t used to clearing them since they rarely multiply, so they rarely mutate.

I wish the available vaccines had a delivery method that would have mucous membrane cells exposed to them instead of skeletal muscle cells. If the same vaccines could be delivered via nasal spray, for example, I would be more open to taking one of them. This is because these cells are routinely infected with respiratory viruses and our immune systems are generally pretty good at clearing the infected mucous membrane cells without developing autoimmune reactions against all normal mucous membrane cells in our bodies. We have no idea if the same applies to non-dividing cells such as skeletal muscle, neural, and certain connective tissue cells.

So when the news came out about a number of people developing myocarditis after receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (over 1000 reported cases in the US alone so far), I was not surprised, and I doubt any of the vaccine developers were surprised either. It made perfect sense to me that the vaccines have caused immunity against other muscle cells such as those of the heart. And while this has been minimized in the media and most cases were “treated” with steroids and other meds, there is currently no way to know the long term cardiac complications of these affected individuals. Will their myocarditis be a condition that flares up every now and then? Will they develop other inflammatory conditions of the heart or other muscle tissues? We have no way of knowing, and more importantly, we have no way to cure such conditions if they develop, which brings me to my next point:

2- We are largely utterly hopeless in curing autoimmune disease. Yes, we know how to “manage” them, mostly with expensive medications that patients have to stay on for life, only to eventually succumb to their autoimmune illness anyway.

Not only that, but the medical community generally looks at patients of autoimmune disease who try to seek actual cures outside of conventional medicine with a great deal of disdain when the medical community itself is unable to provide satisfactory solutions for their debilitating conditions. To be sure, I am not an advocate for alternative medicine and I know that the majority of its advocates are shills who prey on the sick’s desperation for cure, but at least I understand these patients’ frustration with what modern medicine has to offer. The medical community needs to develop this understanding. Doctors need to realize that their methods of managing autoimmune disease are not satisfactory. They need to keep seeking actual cures. It is not ok for the medical community to have such low expectations of medicine that steroids and biologics are viewed as the end goal or even as satisfactory treatments. Unfortunately, many doctors have gotten stuck in their struggle to “manage” their patients that they lost sight of the fact that we should be looking for cures. Actual cures.

Many doctors are unfortunately unable to put themselves in place of their patients to realize that immunosuppression is not a solution. If I as a healthy young adult am given the choice between 1) contracting COVID and risking a small chance of being hospitalized and an even smaller chance of dying and 2) taking a vaccine that could cause me to develop an autoimmune disease of which there is no cure, I’d choose COVID any day. And while it’s true that the chance of developing chronic ailment from the vaccines is small, they haven’t been around for long enough to be sure. And while there is a real risk of long term complications from COVID infections, the track record of novel solutions that are eventually found to have more risk than benefit is not exactly gleaming with hope. Which brings me to my next point:

3- We have every reason to be suspicious of novel “solutions” when it comes to biological manipulation. In fact, not being suspicious after all the disastrous fiascos of the 20th and 21st-century drug recalls, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, and other “creative solutions” that alter biology is naive at best and stupid at worst. Thalidomide was a great drug for several years before we found out its nasty side. DDT was deployed for many years before being removed from the market. mRNA and DNA COVID vaccines haven’t been around for 2 years yet and we’re supposed to treat them as if they’re perfectly safe. The time factor isn’t cancelled out by the fact that the vaccines have been given to tens of thousands of people in their clinical trials. If you give small doses of lead daily to a million people, it will still take years for toxic effects to show.

4- Mainstream media is selling vaccines very much like it sold the war on Iraq. There are daily horror stories about unvaccinated people getting hospitalized and regretting not getting the vaccine, but these cases are actually quite rare and I have not heard of any in my area. I’m not saying that the media is lying, but they are certainly over-presenting infected cases and avoiding all mention of the actual risk of getting hospitalized or dying from infection if you’re a young healthy adult.

At the same time, there is a deliberate underplaying of vaccine side effects. I’m hearing about actual people in my local community who had side effects ranging from anaphylactic reactions to loss of function in their arm to blood clots. Why aren’t these cases being reported by the media? Is the media ever capable of learning from its mistakes? And will the media bear any real consequence for their faulty reporting if we find out some deleterious side effect of the vaccines?

Don’t get me wrong; if I have to take one of the current vaccines, I will. If I have to travel overseas, if I have to go on immunosuppressive therapy for some condition, if I’m old, or if I develop a risk factor that would increase my risk of nasty side effects from COVID, I’ll take the vaccine. But as a young, healthy adult, it is tiring that the media is not even attempting to understand where the vaccine hesitant are coming from or how to address their concerns. We have very scientific, very legitimate reasons to refuse the current vaccines.

I’ll take a vaccine when it’s the protein based, conventional type. I’ll take an mRNA/DNA vaccine that is delivered to mucous membrane cells, and I’ll take the mRNA/DNA vaccine after it’s been in the market for 10+ years and we have statistics showing clearly the lack of significant long term side effects. Aside from that, I’m not taking it. I’d rather get COVID than take one of the currently available vaccines.