I really miss when small talk had variety. I feel this is how it must have been in the late forties, where all you could talk about with relative strangers was the damn commies and the New Testament and literally nothing else. I just want my Uber drivers to go back to telling me about how they met the reincarnation of Jesus in a Circle K 3 years ago and that he’s bringing his children to salvation someday soon. Now all they tell me is how shitty Covid is, which I already know about because I have control over my neck muscles.
Anyway, the controversial black pepper that was recently added to the white family chicken dinner that is our current small talk repertoire are the new Covid19 vaccines. If you haven’t heard about the vaccines, honestly just stick the vacuum cleaner tube back on your dick and return to your corner, we won’t be needing you today. For the rest of you, here’s what’s going on: I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns about the safety of these vaccines. Some of the concerns are from people who I think are pretty valid in their anxiety, while others are from a man who yelled at me on the sidewalk at 3pm on a Tuesday about how Obama started the pandemic as a globalist satanist plot to unite the world under one religion, and that the vaccine is the mark of the Beast which Amazon Prime Nows your soul to the Devil. (This is a real experience I had.)
In either scenario, there’s a common thread. It seems to me that all these concerns stem from either a lack of understanding of the way the vaccines work, a lack of understanding of the genesis of other people’s concerns that you read online and adopted, or most likely both. So, what I’m gonna do is run through how these vaccines actually function inside your body and why people are so freaked out by them. That way, you can judge for yourself whether or not Barack Obama is trying to use your soul as lube for his swingers parties with Satan. Or I guess at least whether or not vaccinating you is part of that plan.
There are four vaccines that either already have or are awaiting approval from Health Canada right now. They belong to AstraZeneca; Janssen, which belongs to Johnson & Johnson; Pfizer and BioNTech; and Moderna Therapeutics. Side note, I can’t tell if it’s just because I expect pharmaceutical companies to be up to some shady shit, but that list felt weirdly threatening. It’s actually not threatening though, because these vaccines will save countless lives, each using a slightly different method.
Health Canada office at Tunney's Pasture in Ottawa (credits: Sean Kilpatrick - CP, via CTV News)
Really quickly, Covid19 is not a virus, it's a disease caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus, which uses proteins called ‘spike proteins’ to enter our cells and mess them up, which is bad for us okay, I’m not the Encyclopedia Britannica, that’s all you need to know. The virus does this because it doesn’t have the equipment to replicate itself, however our cells do, so when it enters our cells, it tells them to make more of the virus and that’s how it stays ‘alive.’ Those spike proteins are important because they can trigger an immune response from the body on their own, but we’ll get to that.
This is where we get into how the vaccines work. The AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are both under review in Canada and function like a traditional vaccine. They inject a harmless virus into the body that contains instructions for the cell to create SARS-CoV2’s spike proteins instead of more of the virus, and those spike proteins are displayed on the edge of the vaccinated cell, similarly to the SARS-CoV2 virus. When the cell infected with the harmless virus dies, it sheds all its spike proteins which are picked up in the body by immune cells that learn about the spike proteins and learn how to target them elsewhere in the body, including on the outside of other infected cells, as well as on the real virus. This way, if the actual virus that causes Covid19 is floating around in your body, your immune cells already know to attack and destroy it.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which has been approved in Canada and is already being rolled out, as well as the Moderna vaccine which is still under review use a brand new technology instead of a virus to make the spike proteins. They use mRNA, which is the actual instruction manual for the spike proteins itself. These instructions are picked up by cells in your body and the process is pretty much the same as the traditional vaccines.
Right away this clarifies a couple of things. The first is that at no point are you being given Covid19 or injected with SARS-CoV2, half of these vaccines don’t give you a virus at all, and the other two use like monkey cold viruses and shit that doesn’t affect us. You will get symptoms from getting the vaccine but they are symptoms of the immune response that’s saving your ass, not of a disease. The second thing is that your DNA never gets touched. Your genetic code is stored in the nucleus of the cell, while the mRNA, the instructions for the spike proteins, are read in the body of the cell. Just because someone uses your bathroom doesn’t mean they live in your house, and just because a vaccine uses your cells to make training-dummy spike proteins doesn’t mean you owe your soul to Obama or whatever.
Before I move on to the crazies though, there’s one more concern that actually makes sense to me and that’s the time frame. Before this year, we had never made a vaccine in less than four years, and these took us 11 months and are more effective than experts had been hoping for, two of which use a technology we never have in the past. But honestly, this stuff can’t stay in the body longer than the lifetime of a given cell, which is not long, so it’s not like there are likely to be any long term effects we couldn’t have predicted (hope I’m not jinxing it). And thousands of people have already had them in testing so it’s not like they just kill you on the spot.
Plus, on top of all that, this is why all these science losers went to school for like a decade and I don’t understand why some guy on the internet with a dick joke for a name needs to be the one to tell people it’ll be alright when we have nerd regulators for a reason. And they don’t even have that hard of a job in all this, they just have to make sure that there’s no secret hidden cancer or microchip in the vaccines and it’s a thumbs up.
“WhAt iF tHEy’Re iN On iT?” Shut the fuck up uncle Jimbob, you think that in a global conspiracy, Health Canada is gonna be the one in charge of the cover up? That would be like facing elimination in the World Series and pulling Blake Snell in the 6th inning. Who the fuck would do something like that? But there are some pretty funky conspiracies out there. Anti-vaxxers have been around for a long time and Trump has even pandered to them at rallies, plus there are all sorts of theories about interest groups releasing the virus in some evil plot for world domination, but none of these have any actual basis in reality. There is no avenue to world domination through this pandemic, least of all through the vaccines.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence receives the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at the White House (credits: Tanjug - AP)
I think that probably it’s still a minority that believes all that shit, and if you are such a person, there’s nothing I can say to change your mind, but the fact of the internet is that that minority is very very loud. And that volume carries influence, all the way up to the White House, though I should mention, as I was writing this, Vice President Mike Pence just took the Pfizer vaccine publicly. Regardless, fringe anxieties penetrate the mainstream so easily nowadays and it’s only going to get worse. Technology in all fields is improving at an exponential rate (this is called Moore's law baby, IYKYK) becoming more and more complicated and difficult to understand, and it’s when we don’t understand something that we mistrust it, or latch on to explanations and conspiracies that are easier to grasp and more comfortable to believe in. If we can’t stay on top of making sure the public has a thorough understanding of the technology that runs their lives, people are going to get left behind and it’s already starting.
We currently face a different existential threat in global warming and we can’t even agree on whether or not it’s real, and as a result we’re dropping the ball. What happens when shit gets even worse, or when an asteroid is headed toward the planet and half of us believe that the anti-asteroid lasers are a conspiracy to attract aliens or something? The saying goes that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but we need to be hyper focused on redistinguishing it. Civilization revolves around the technology at our disposal and we’re at a point in history where our technology can do truly magical shit, but if people are afraid of that because they don’t understand what’s going on, things are gonna break down, and that would be a bigger waste than pulling Blake Snell in the 6th inning of game 6 of the World Series. No, I'm not gonna let it go.
Title photo credit: Mufid Majnun