Mercer Island MD: Getting COVID vaccine has ‘become a political issue’
There are a lot of people who are worried that the government is going to force them to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but it’s starting to be more likely that your employer will require a vaccine, especially if you work in the health care industry.
“A lot of health care corporations and universities are going to start mandating that all their employees get the COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Gordon Cohen, Mercer Island MD. “And what’s interesting is it actually appears to be happening on a regional basis so that employees can’t run from one institution to another — one where they have to get to another where they don’t have to get it.”
“What disappoints me more than anything, and we’ve repeatedly talked about this, is this is not a political issue. It shouldn’t be a political issue. But it’s become a political issue,” Cohen added.
There’s been concern related to how fast the vaccine was brought out, but as Dr. Cohen explains, while mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine, the platform upon which it was built is not new.
“A lot of people think that the vaccine can actually alter your DNA and that this is a new type of vaccine,” Dr. Cohen said. “Now here’s the thing: The mRNA vaccines, the messenger RNA vaccines, they actually teach our cells, our own cells, to make a protein or even just a piece of a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.”
“Well, guess what the virus does when it enters your body? The virus takes over our cells to make proteins to replicate itself,” he continued. “And in this case, we’re only taking a little piece of this messenger and having it create a little piece of protein, enough that it can stimulate an immune response. People say, ‘well, that can still alter your DNA.’ No, it cannot. The messenger RNA comes nowhere near the DNA. It actually works in a different part of the cell.”
Dr. Cohen also points out that in the history of the United States, we’ve used all different kinds of vaccines that we don’t even give a second thought.
“For example, one of the more common vaccines that are still given to children is what’s called a live attenuated virus. So we actually take the virus and we weaken it,” Cohen said. “And that’s like the measles, mumps, rubella — the MRR that we get as a child — the varicella, which is for chicken pox. And even the nose spray for the flu.”
“So we are actually giving people the actual virus. When we do the mRNA vaccine, we are not doing that,” he added. “For polio and Hepatitis A, we use an inactivated, killed virus. So we actually take the actual polio virus, the actual hepatitis A virus and we kill it, so to speak. But we still give it to to the patient.”
The vaccines for viruses that create toxins, like diphtheria or tetanus, use the actual toxin that’s produced, Cohen explains, and it’s inactivated then given to the patient so they develop an antibody to it.
“So we’ve actually used far more harmful things over the history of time, and then we’re still using them to create vaccinations,” Dr. Cohen said. “And yet this, what really is a very, very safe platform — technology just using a little piece of mRNA that’s wrapped in a lipid nanoparticle to induce an antibody response to just the spike protein, just a little piece of the virus — has created all this uproar. And it’s not warranted.”
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