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Could mRNA COVID-19 vaccines be dangerous in the long-term?

“There is a race to get the public vaccinated, so we are willing to take more risks.”

By MAAYAN JAFFE-HOFFMAN
November 16, 2020 13:47

Israelis celebrated on Friday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the country had signed a deal with Pfizer Inc. to receive access to its novel coronavirus vaccine. But the fact remains that if Pfizer – or Moderna, with whom Israel also has a contract – succeed, these will be the first-ever messenger RNA vaccines brought to market for human patients.

In order to receive Food and Drug Administration approval, the companies will have to prove there are no immediate or short-term negative health effects from taking the vaccines. However, when the world begins injecting themselves with these completely new and revolutionary vaccines, it will not know a lot about its long-term effects.

“There is a race to get the public vaccinated, so we are willing to take more risks,” Tal Brosh, the head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, told The Jerusalem Post. 

When Moderna was just finishing its Phase I trial, The Independent wrote about the vaccine and described it this way: “It uses a sequence of genetic RNA material produced in a lab that, when injected into your body, must invade your cells and hijack your cells’ protein-making machinery called ribosomes to produce the viral components that subsequently train your immune system to fight the virus,” it wrote. “In this case, Moderna’s mRNA-1273 is programmed to make your cells produce the coronavirus’ infamous spike protein that gives the virus its crown-like appearance (corona is crown in Latin) for which it is named.”

Brosh said that this does not mean the vaccine changes people’s genetic code. Rather, he said it is more like a disk-on-key (the mRNA) that is inserted into a computer (your body). It does not impact the hard drive of the computer but runs a certain program.

But he acknowledged that there are unique and unknown risks to messenger RNA vaccines, including local and systemic inflammatory responses that could lead to autoimmune conditions.

An article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the National Institutes of Health, said other risks included the biodistribution and persistence of the induced immunogen expression, possible development of autoreactive antibodies and toxic effects of any non-native nucleotides and delivery system components. 

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