Meme Busters: The Anonymous Nurse

They escaped from Alcatraz, exploded a toilet, drank mentos and Diet Coke at the same time, and lived to tell the tale. They even proved there was room for Jack as well as Rose on that plank of wood. 

Discovery Channel’s long-running MythBusters put questions, myths, and urban legends to the test. Sometimes there was truth, sometimes a bit of truth, and often the myth was busted (no, your stomach will not explode if you drink Coke and Mentos at the same time). 

INTRODUCING: Science Meme Busters! I can’t bust them all, but I’ll be on the lookout for the good ones!

Memes make the rounds on social media, especially science memes. Sometimes photos with clever captions, sometimes cut-and-paste stories that begin with “I copied this from someone else” or “copied and shared from a friend”.

Making the rounds lately are the thoughts of an anonymous “ER nurse” regarding “diverse opinions” about Covid-19. 

So much to bust in this meme, but for now, I’ll focus here:

Anyone out there who can tell me what our end game is with the covid19? . . . Is it a vaccine? . . .It took 25 years for a chicken pox vaccine to be developed.” “Do you really think people will flock to get a fast tracked, quickly tested vaccine, whose long term side effects and overall efficacy are anyone's best guess?

Vaccines train our immune system to recognize and fight invading pathogens. Before the 20th century, this could be an effective but often dangerous practice. 

For centuries, doctors rubbed scabs from smallpox victims into a scratch on the arm of a healthy person, a process called “variolation”. A single smallpox blister would form, heal, and the variolated person was immune to smallpox . . . hopefully.

Sometimes the variolated person developed smallpox. Two percent of variolated people died. Still, two percent is a far cry from the 30% death rate from natural smallpox infection. 

Weighing the risks, many opted for smallpox variolation when it was available. George Washington ordered the variolation of his troops at the height of the American Revolution. 

No one knew why variolation (sometimes) worked. But by the 20th century, we knew about viruses and we fixed our attention on them. 

We looked for a safer way to train the immune system using vaccines containing inactivated or weakened viruses. 

When vaccines for diseases like measles, mumps, and chickenpox were developed, researchers weakened viruses by systematically growing them in a variety of cultures. Viruses were forced to grow for hundreds of generations in a hodgepodge of human and animal cells. As the viruses adapted to ever-changing environments, they became less dangerous to humans. 

As you can image, it was time-consuming to grow strains of disabled viruses. Following the creation of a disabled strain, vaccines were developed, then tested – all time-consuming processes. 

We aren’t starting from scratch with Covid19. This is the 21st century and we aren’t just figuring out this whole vaccine thing.

In 2020, we have more technology in our arsenal. In our age of modern genetics, the five top candidates for a Covid19 vaccine use information to teach our immune system, not the actual Covid19 virus.

Two of the top contenders use a copy of a gene that makes one of the protein spikes on the corona virus. The vaccine delivers the genetic instructions, and the body responds by using the instructions to make the spike protein. 

The spike protein alone won’t make you sick. BUT – the presence of the protein teaches your immune system to recognize and destroy anything presenting the protein – including an entire Covid19 virus. 

wiki commons

The remaining top contenders use other versions of delivering genetic instructions for a single Covid19 protein. 

Instead of months (and more) of transferring viruses from culture to culture, the genetic code for a protein can be read almost immediately. 

We can make an experimental batch of vaccine in a week. 

The mysterious and anonymous “nurse” in this meme cites the years needed to develop the chickenpox vaccine and worries about the “fast-tracking” of a Covid19 vaccine. Should we fear a vaccine developed under a program termed “Operation Warp Speed”?

The unprecedented speed of a Covid19 vaccine is not due to fast-tracking and corner-cutting in safety and effectiveness testing. 

The “speed” refers to the manufacturing process. While all the long phases of safety trials are occurring, the most promising vaccines are being manufactured on an industrial scale. Usually, vaccines aren’t manufactured until after the trials.

In order to speed things up, doses of the promising vaccines are already being made. If all of the phase trials show a vaccine to be safe and effective, we won’t have to wait months to manufacture it.

On the other hand, we are possibly manufacturing doses that will never be used.

The risk in Operation Warp Speed is financial, not safety.

Conclusion: Meme Busted!

The 2nd place winner at Mark’s office Halloween party (she was robbed I say!). Her cute red “spikes” aren’t so scary.

And as You speak

A hundred billion creatures catch your breath

Evolving in pursuit of what You said

If it all reveals Your nature so will I

(Hillsong United So Will I)

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