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BLACK and Worried About The Covid Vaccine?
December 29, 2020
Are you Black and worried about the Covid vaccine? In this post, we’ll consider how some of the new vaccines are developed and why many black people are concerned about them. Even more, we consider there are at least three excellent reasons that should ease your concerns about taking the vaccines.
By Dr Sylvia Kama-Kieghe
This article will help you make your decision about whether to have the covid vaccine or not; based on the facts rather than unclear conspiracy theories and other misinformation around Covid-19.
Recently, the term Lucifer has been in the news more frequently, too.
And so, we include a bonus section with a little analysis of the Luciferase enzyme and its use in Covid-19 treatments.
I’m a practising general practitioner and member of the Royal College of General Practitioners, RCGP, UK.
As a black woman, I understand the concerns that other black people have around the Covid-19 vaccine; but I’d like to share some reasons why we do not need to fear having the vaccine.
Firstly, we should address genuine concerns that Black people have about the newly developed Covid-19 vaccines.
These concerns are based on the personal experience of black people receiving medical treatment of lower/inferior standards.
They also come from historical events where Black people have been subject to mistreatment and misrepresentation in medical research; often guinea pigs in medical experiments.
If you’d like examples for some of these instances, there are a few links in the reference section below.
Due to these experiences, there is a natural suspicion and reluctance among blacks to accept these new vaccines.
But there is also the dilemma that significant proportions of those infected by Covid-19 were from black and other minority groups in many countries.
Therefore, they are a critical group that will benefit immensely from vaccines to prevent the Covid infection.
As identified by the WHO earlier this year, we are not only in the throes of a pandemic but also in an infodemic – a crisis of accurate public health information.
These are some of the worrying/scary stories going around about the Covid-19 vaccines.
First, let us look at the vaccines – three in particular, out of nearly 200 vaccines at various stages of development around the world:
These three vaccines have a common theme – their development comes from newer Gene-Based vaccine technology.
They are different from the older vaccines – which we develop using protein-based technology, already use either in routine childhood immunisation schedules, travel vaccines etc.
Gene-based vaccines are of two types:
In the first group, the vaccines are delivered through a viral vector (or carrier); while in the second group, vaccine delivery is through nucleic acid chains.
(Nucleic acid chains are simply naked DNA or mRNA strands (with genetic code) or DNA/mRNA strands within a lipid carrier).
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, already in circulation in the UK and US, fall into the 2nd category.
They have become the first mRNA vaccines to receive approval for development and use outside research.
However, the technology has been in existence for about 30 years now.
Once you have the vaccine, the mRNA provides a unique set of instructions to create the Covid virus spike protein. The body recognises this as a foreign body and mounts an immune response, learning what to do if infection with the actual virus happens.
We expect approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine for use in a matter of days or weeks – and this is the vaccine that will likely have great consequence for global use.
It is cheaper, suitable for transport in a cold chain; a non-profit vaccine aiming for global supply, equity, and commitment to low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs),
It is the first type of the gene-based group, i.e. where a viral vector transports genetic material in a less harmful virus.
This is similar to the development of the new Ebola vaccine (approved in July 2020).
For Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, the genetic code is carried on a weaker, common cold-causing adenovirus and is harmless.
Again, a person who receives the AstraZeneca vaccine receives the genetic information needed to create an immune response in preparation for possible future infection with the virus.
We can make them rapidly and in large amounts – since they gow in test tubes, they will not need cells or eggs for production.
If you’d like to know more about how these vaccines are different from the older ones and each other, watch out for my Comparison Analysis for the Covid vaccines.
Let us now look at three reasons to have some confidence in these vaccines of gene-based technology.
This addresses the issue of speed in developing the vaccine. How could they have got them out so quickly?
And considering the rapid pace of their development, could they be effective, safe and reliable?
What about phase 3 trials that we hear so much about as critical in the safe development of medicines? (By the way, if you are wondering what phase three trials mean in respect of vaccine development – watch my video here to learn more).
However, these are ALL valid questions.
But the fact is – scientists have worked on the back of already existing technology to create these vaccines.
We are currently using mRNA technology to develop gene therapy and cancer treatments.
Before we had Covid, we had SARS (in 2002), and MERS (2012) – severe health conditions caused by viruses in the same family as the SARS-CoV-2.
Therefore although the COVID virus is new, studies on preventing a pandemic caused by a coronavirus have an 18-year history.
This same scientific progress helped the scientists sequence viral RNA – less than one month after the SARS-Co-V2 was discovered.
Additionally, here’s another thought – for some years now – we have been developing flu vaccines in less than 12 months.
Every year’s flu injection is different from the year before, but they are not developed from scratch!
Instead, vaccine developers already have facilities set up to make flu vaccines.
Each year, they apply the specific influenza strain and prepare the vaccine for that year.
This significantly led to lots of red tape being cut off – but it wasn’t just enough that the hard work of creating a foundation for the vaccine had already been done years ago.
The other aspect that made a big difference was good planning and unprecedented coordination between researchers, manufacturers, and regulators.
This has seen a massive amount of bureaucratic red tape that often dogs the development of new medicines sliced away to allow product development.
Vaccine trials usually involve a lot of waiting – we are told that the usual development time for a vaccine is ten years – four years even; but not in this case.
Vast amounts of money poured in, from various countries’ governments and other funding bodies and donors.
Everyone was desperate to get a solution to the pandemic.
The pharmaceutical companies were keen to rapidly make the vaccines, while regulators worldwide wanted to get an approved vaccine out to the public.
Usually between these two positions is a lot of waiting for funds, data and paperwork; meetings for approval and more.
But thanks to the overwhelming desire for a solution, unprecedented fast-tracking led to having these vaccines out of the laboratory into the streets in under 12 months.
Even if you accept that things were done differently to get the vaccine out so quickly, do they work?
Are they safe? What will be the long term effects since we shortened phase 3 trials from the usual four years or more to months?
The answers to these questions come from data we have available on these vaccines thanks to the trials and volunteers involved in their development.
We know from the data that these vaccines are highly effective, and there are minimal side effects in the short term.
During phase three trials, the pandemic spread quite quickly, so it wasn’t hard for scientists to accumulate enough cases in the thousands to allow them to end the trials and analyse the data.
Let’s look at one of Pfizer’s published data – the trial included diverse groups as you can see from this image of the data published by the US FDA Emergency Use Authorisation Report.
Members of the FDA’s review board also included a diverse group with blacks and other ethnic minorities analysing the data.
In the Oxford Astra Zeneca study, diverse groups from different parts of the UK were involved as trial volunteers, and the researchers in the Oxford COVID Vaccine Trial Group also showed broad diversity.
The Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine entered phase III efficacy trials before others like Pfizer and Moderna.
United States, South Africa, Japan and Russia did the Oxford AZ vaccine trials with thousands of trial participants from each country.
So what is my point showing you all this? That while the phase 3 trials have been faster than usual, they’ve not been rushed.
Most importantly, the vaccines’ effects were analysed on diverse population groups randomly so that blacks were NOT selected to be used as guinea pigs or for experimentation.
And – not only do we have blacks in the studies, but they are also in the review meetings, decision and approval meetings for the release of the vaccines in different countries.
This should give us the confidence that we are equal contributors and recipients to the study for treatments meant for all humanity’s benefit.
The enzyme Luciferase is currently getting a lot of attention because of its use in developing therapies for Covid-19.
Some people relate this enzyme to a tool of evil because the name is related to Lucifer, the devil in Christian faith.
Luciferase is the name for a group of enzyme which glows/shines when oxidised.
It was named and discovered by scientist Raphael Dubois at the end of the 19th century.
It naturally occurs in insects called fireflies and is used in many ways – such as measuring how well a drug or test works quickly.
We use it in covid-19 tests, as a more sensitive and accurate visual sign for whether covid-19 antibodies are being formed.
Thus it can help in developing rapid Covid tests. And it is used to extract the mRNA molecule for developing some vaccines.
Luciferase is NOT a component in any of the vaccines; it is harmless and has been in use for years in developing other products from industries including food, agriculture, health etc.
So how do you feel? What do you believe?
I hope these reasons help you commit to checking out the information you hear on social media or other sources before deciding.
Whether you take the vaccine or not is an action, and I hope you make the right decision for yourself based on what’s true.
Make sure you comment below and let me know – do you feel any more or less reassured about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine?
Dr Sylvia has NO affiliations with any pharmaceutical company or organisation. All the points shared are fact-checked – with the links in the reference section below.
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through email@example.com
Image Credits: Canva
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