On New Year’s Eve I volunteered at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the hospital where I work. People who came in to get their shot were surprised to see a doctor sitting at the table instead of a nurse.
“Dr. Sanderson? What are you doing here?”
I felt like I had to defend myself and my clinical skills.
“I know how to give shots,” I would say. “I went to medical school, you know. I poke people’s muscles with needles all of the time in the EMG lab.”
“Well … okay.”
Eventually everyone had to admit that I did a good job of giving shots, and some of them sounded surprised when they said it. Our employee health nurse said that she was going to ask for my help next fall when she is giving us our flu shots.
I personally immunized 49 people, and a nurse in our group immunized me.
Traditional vaccines are either 1) live attenuated organisms or 2) deactivated organism parts.
In order to use a live organism as a vaccine you have to reduce, or attenuate, its potential to cause disease. Live organisms produce a robust and very effective immune response when you introduce them into people, because they are actually metabolizing, reproducing, and doing all of the typical things you would expect them to. But because the organism is attenuated, our immune systems can make short work of it without causing a lot of symptoms. The problem with live organisms is that sometimes, and for certain people, their virulence is not as attenuated as you think. There have been a few cases of paralytic poliomyelitis from the live polio vaccine, for instance. That’s why we don’t use it any more in the USA.
Most of the vaccines we use these days — MMR, DTP, polio, etc. — are of the second variety. There is no risk of infection from this kind of vaccine, because all you’re injecting is dead body parts of viruses or bacteria. This works too, but not quite as well as a live organism, because your immune system only gets a fleeting glimpse of the stuff. Typically these vaccines require boosters.
The COVID-19 vaccine is more like vaccine method 2, except that the only thing from the virus injected into you is a single strand of messenger RNA. This mRNA strand contains the gene for the spike protein that gives the SARS-CoV2 virus particle its knobbly surface. The mRNA gets picked up and translated by cells in the body, which then express the spike protein for as long as the mRNA hangs around, which is only a matter of hours. But this is long enough for your immune system to notice that some cells are making a weird protein that doesn’t belong in your body. Because there is no infection with an actual live virus, there is no chance of getting COVID-19 from the vaccine. But you do have to get a booster in 28 days.
I noticed some soreness in my deltoid muscle for a couple of days after getting the shot. It was a little worse than what I have had from most flu shots, but still not terrible. Other people have reported low grade fevers for a day or two, but I didn’t have any.
There is a lot of disinformation floating around about COVID-19 and its vaccines. Please don’t believe the lies and rumors. This vaccine is safe and effective; it is not part of a nefarious plan to harm you or anyone else.
Medical doctors are oath-bound to use their knowledge and skills to relieve suffering. As a Christian it is my duty to love and serve my brothers and sisters everywhere in the world, even the ones who don’t like me. I want to make this world a better place for everyone to live in. The last thing I want to do is promote or participate in an evil conspiracy.
It is a miracle that a vaccine has already been produced for this virus, which a year ago was just emerging from Wuhan, China. And we have not just one vaccine, but two vaccines, and a third one in the UK, and two more in phase 3 clinical trials. This is incredibly rapid drug development. The technology to develop a vaccine this quickly did not exist when I was an undergraduate studying biology just 20 years ago.
Recently I saw a social media post written by a virology researcher who has done a lot of work on SARS-CoV2:
“I have felt powerful promptings of the Spirit guiding me in this research in very direct and clear ways. The voice of the Holy Ghost has awakened me at night with very specific instructions on how to assay and work with this virus. The most clear one came on the night of the world-wide fast. The Lord cares for us and is providing answers. But we must choose to accept the blessing at his hand.“
When I say that these vaccines are miraculous, I mean that literally. “The Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes” (Alma 37:7). A miracle is a manifestation of divine power, and the fact that we might understand something about the mechanism by which that power operated does not make it any less miraculous.
If you are waffling on whether or not to get this vaccine, GET IT.
To those of you who have been fasting and praying for a miracle to end this pandemic, THIS IS YOUR ANSWER. THIS IS YOUR MIRACLE.
By getting the vaccine you will contribute in a meaningful way to reducing your own risk of COVID-19 complications, and to reducing the number of deaths and hospitalizations in your community.
Go get the vaccine as soon as you can.
What a privilege to hold the hand, and the trust, of a little girl!
Sometimes we crave a hero’s journey when all we really need is to do something simple.
An empirical approach to COVID-19 public policy, medicine, and matters of faith.