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Is the COVID-19 Vaccination Safe?

The Christian Perspective / Chris Hughes
The Truth Network Radio
August 27, 2021 1:00 am

Is the COVID-19 Vaccination Safe?

The Christian Perspective / Chris Hughes

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August 27, 2021 1:00 am

Dr. Chris Hughes is joined by biologist Hallmon Hughes, who shares information about the vaccine and answers some pressing questions, such as: What types of vaccines are available, and what are the differences? Is it safe? How does the vaccine prevent or lessen the effects of the virus? Why are some people more susceptible to the virus than others? And how do our antibodies fight the disease?

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Welcome to The Christian Perspective, where we look in God's Word in order to develop a Christian worldview on modern culture. Is the COVID vaccine safe? Should your family take the vaccine?

I'm Chris Hughes, and we're going to explore a hot topic in the world today. Vaccines. Are they safe? Should you and your family take the vaccine? I want to look at this issue, not from a political perspective, but from a scientific perspective. Today's guest is a biologist who understands the issue much better than me. She's a graduate of Emory University, where she studied biology. And she's in her final year of her master's work at Johns Hopkins University, where she studies molecular biology and immunology. Holman Hughes, welcome to The Christian Perspective.

Thank you for having me today. Well, Holman, I'm excited about this topic because a lot of people in the world right now are trying to figure out, should I take the vaccine? There's some people say there's politics involved. Others are just scared about what the effects might be of taking a vaccine that has not been approved by the government officially. And so there are a lot of questions out there today.

And this is a little different type of show that we're doing. But since it's an important topic, we wanted our people to be able to learn about the vaccine and have a security and a safety net of knowing whether or not they should take the vaccine. So first of all, tell us a little bit about COVID-19. What is it and what's happening in the world today?

Sure. As of July of 2021 in the US, COVID-19 currently has a 1.8 mortality rate percentage. Variation and death rates are often attributed to socioeconomic factors, which may result in impacting their access to healthcare. And scientists often attribute those without symptoms to be resistors to the virus. So what are some of the causes of the virus? So first of all, COVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. And SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA plus sense virus, which essentially means that it can be directly translated into proteins in the host cell. Now, later when we talk about vaccines, we'll hear about mRNA vaccines. And the whole reason why mRNA vaccines were considered for development with regards to COVID is because it is an RNA sense virus.

And it is generally associated with a common cold or an upper respiratory disease. So I hear a lot of people talking about their immune response. And I don't really know, and I don't know if all of our listeners know, what is an immune, I can't even say it right, an immune response? And what is the immune response to the Coronavirus? So the virus infects macrophages, which are these large cells that consume invaders and essentially, quote unquote, eat them as part of the innate immune system. And the innate immune system is part of the immune system that we have had with us since birth. These macrophages or eating cells will then take antigens, which are tiny pieces of the invader and present them to something called T cells for priming. So what this means is that these T cells start something called a cytokine reaction. And one specific important cytokine is called CD8+, which is kind of like COVID special forces, because these cells use pieces of the invaders that were collected earlier to kill infected cells. Now, this process is known as the adaptive immune response because the body is, quote unquote, adapted by taking pieces of the invader and teaching itself to kill cells with those traits. And these CD8+, special forces cells are very important in this COVID response because they're responsible for 80% of the adaptive immune response in the lungs. Well, that was pretty scientific.

I'm not sure I followed all that, but a lot of our smarter listeners will understand what you're saying there. So are these special force cells you're mentioning, are they antibodies? Is that what they are in English?

No. So what these cells do is they basically tell infected cells to kill themselves in order to knock out cells that present disease particles. But I can also go into what antibodies are.

They're a little bit different. Well, we're hearing a lot about antibodies as well. So these cells are trying to save us and protect us from what you just described, right, from the coronavirus.

Yes. Okay, and that's in our body already. These cells are in our body already, but they have to be trained to identify particles that are unique to coronavirus.

Which is probably why we needed the vaccine that we'll talk about in a minute. So how are these cells different from an antibody? What is an antibody and how does that work? So an antibody is a large Y-shaped protein, and it's used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign invaders.

And they're composed of this inner lining heavy V-chain, which is shaped like a Y. And that's constant for all diseases. But they have a light chain on the outer rim that allows for antigens to bind that are specific to certain diseases. So essentially antibodies are created during the adaptive immune response to bind and recognize disease cells so they can be removed from the body. And they're important in COVID because they bind to something called a receptor binding domain, which is essentially a lock and key mechanism that COVID uses to enter the cells.

But by binding to the area where the lock and key, so to speak, meet, the antibodies can prevent the virus from entering the host cell to replicate. And the main receptor that we look at in COVID-19 is called ACE2. And ACE2 receptor is particularly interesting because it is expressed on a variety of cells throughout the body, which means that SARS-CoV-2 can infect cells in a wide range of areas in the body.

And it's also involved in this system with the acronym RAAS, which is important because it is vital in tissue injury, inflammation, and vascular permeability and vasoconstriction. So all this is said because patients can develop potentially lethal blood clots and internal bleeding based off of which cells the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects. So effective natural clearing of COVID-19 from the body, or the people who can naturally clear COVID without undergoing severe treatment, involves the use of those CD8 plus cells, which are those special forces cells, the neutralizing antibodies, which can identify foreign particles, and another type of cell called a CD4 T cell, which brings in those eating cells from earlier and regulates the function of the special forces cell.

So without this full trifecta, people really have issues clearing COVID-19 naturally. Okay, so we have these antibodies already in us. They're not from the vaccine. We already have the inner lining structure of the antibody in our body. But what a vaccine strives to do is to help the antibody develop that outer layer that is used to recognize disease specific antigens. And an antigen, as I said earlier, is just a foreign particle that the body can recognize as a disease particle. Okay, so people right now are getting COVID and their body has these little special forces cells you described, and I'm simplifying it for me because I'm not a scientist. So we have the special force guys in our body working on it. The antibodies are also attacking it.

And then the third, I think you said C4, is that correct? The CD4 cells. Basically what those do is they just regulate those special forces cells and they also bring in more of those eating cells from that first stage. And all that's happening naturally in our body. So from what I've read, a large percentage of people are getting well from COVID and not dying from COVID. They may get sick.

Some never even show any symptoms at all from what I've read. So that's because these three things within our body are attacking the disease, if you will. And is coronavirus a disease, by the way? So COVID-19 is the disease, but it is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. And we've also seen SARS-CoV-1 back in 2003, but it didn't make near as much of a standing in the news because there was far less spread of it and it wasn't, for lack of a better term, politicized as much.

Yeah, and politics, I think, has played a big part in this. I said I wouldn't get into politics, but I wonder, and I'm not going to have you answer this question, but we never hear of anybody getting the normal flu anymore, which is kind of interesting to me, but only the COVID-19 virus, which is a type of flu, I guess, right? It's flu as well? It's not technically a flu, but it is still considered an upper respiratory disease.

The flu is also considered an upper respiratory disease. Okay, so some people, as I mentioned, a lot of people are getting well from it or their body's healing naturally through the process that I assume you just discussed, but a lot of people are also getting very, very sick. So what's happening in these severe cases and what's different there from those who might have it? And so I had it about a year ago and it was not pleasant.

I was very, very sick, but we didn't really have a vaccine available at the time when I had it. What happens in these severe cases? So these severe cases are characterized by something known as a prolonged cytokine storm. So what on earth is a prolonged cytokine storm? Essentially, the body produces up to 50 times more inflammatory cells, which trigger widespread tissue damage, which if you remember from earlier, I was saying that that receptor that's involved in COVID was tied to tissue development. So when you mess up that receptor, you can result in tissue damage all across the body. And in addition, the body begins releasing immune responses for very different diseases.

So a couple of examples of those would be fungal responses and heartworm responses. So essentially, the immune response is so dysregulated that it's not even triggering for the right pathogen. And this cytokine storm is maintained by the high viral load and it results in all these other issues in patients.

Okay, so let's slow down and put that in language that somebody like me can understand. So our body is basically inflaming from a sickness, if I'm understanding what you're saying, and internally our lungs or whatever, is that correct? So basically, your immune system is just going haywire. It's producing a way larger immune response than what it should be producing. And it's producing immune responses to diseases that aren't even in your body. So your body doesn't know what this disease is, so it's just throwing whatever it's got at it. And it just causes your body to go absolutely haywire.

Because it's throwing these other things. So it may not necessarily be the virus itself that is causing the complications from the virus, but the way that your body is reacting. And I'm going to go down a rabbit trail here because I want to come back to these severe cases and we'll get into the vaccine in more detail in a minute. So basically, is the vaccine helping communicate to your body that this is the way to heal it instead of throwing all these hundreds of other things at it? What the vaccine most strives to do is to identify COVID-19 as early as possible before other things can start happening in the body.

So by identifying it and preventing it from entering that cell via the lock and key ACE2 receptor system we talked about earlier, it prevents COVID from entering the cell and it stops a lot of this stuff from happening. So your immune system basically catches it earlier on. Okay, so in these severe cases then people are getting what they probably think is a bad case of the flu or a cold in the beginning because when you say upper respiratory does that mean that we're coughing, fever? And I'm kind of going down another rabbit trail, but what are the symptoms, how do we know if that's what we're starting to get and what are some of the symptoms of an upper respiratory illness? Well, traditionally when you think of upper respiratory illness is you think of mucus production and coughing and sore throat and things like that. But with COVID it's been really interesting to see that the symptoms don't really seem to be consistent amongst patients, especially with regards to patients who have no symptoms at all.

So it's kind of almost a new realm I feel like for a lot of people because they're used to being able to determine what they're sick with just by their symptoms whereas COVID you have to get a test and possibly wait a couple of weeks to even find out what you're sick with. So if somebody has, what was the term, mucus something, what did you say? I think I said mucus production. Mucus production, which I think in my terms is runny nose, right?

Well, runny nose, like clots of mucus in your throat, just overall a congestion from mucus. Okay, so you feel like you're getting a cold coming on and you get a fever, at that point you should probably go get tested, right? Well, nowadays they make you get tested even before you have those symptoms because you can have no symptoms and by their tests. But I'm saying if someone starts to see this they should probably get tested.

Probably. Yeah, and I think I read somewhere earlier this week that you can actually buy a take-home test at some drugstores now, which I didn't know was available. But I've heard that sometimes those have as low as a 58% accuracy. I'm not absolutely certain on that but I've heard that it's not necessarily guaranteed to give you the right result the first go around. So for those of you listening, I guess if you start to have symptoms or think you have symptoms, you could go, you can search within your county. There are a lot of websites about COVID-19 available and you can search by your county and you can find out where you can get tested and where you can get the vaccine. So either your normal health provider or probably any of the major drugstores, Walgreens or CVS or Walmart Pharmacy, probably any of those have the test available. And if nothing else, you can go to your local health department. I can't speak for all cases.

I'm not sure when exactly the test is free, but in almost all cases I know the vaccine is free. Okay, so we were talking about severe cases. So our body tries to, if we have not been vaccinated, our body tries to just throw all these things at us and tries to heal us. And because of what our body is doing and it doesn't know where to send those receptors or whatever they're called in to fight that case, we get sicker. So what is the difference in a severe case then? And I know we're just starting to touch vaccines. What's the difference in someone who has not been vaccinated and someone who has been vaccinated when they are getting sick? What is their body doing differently?

So basically the difference is a time frame. So somebody who has not been vaccinated, they have to have their immune system develop a response and be able to identify COVID-19 or what's causing COVID-19. So the idea of a vaccine is you either provide a viral vector, which is what's used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which means that you inject a non-functional version of SARS-CoV-2 into a patient in order for their immune system to have time to process and identify what would cause COVID-19 without having severe side effects from COVID-19.

What do you mean by non-functional? So basically this looks like COVID-19. Sometimes it's a killed version of COVID-19, otherwise it's just an active version of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. So the idea behind it is you don't injure yourself by having this disease-causing particle in your body, but it gives your body time to learn what it looks like.

So if it ever comes into contact with it again, it will be able to recognize it instantly, hopefully. So this is in comparison with somebody who doesn't have any interaction with SARS-CoV-2 before getting infected with the disease, and it's kind of having to play catch-up because it's trying to fend off the symptoms of COVID-19 while at the same time trying to identify it and prepare other cells in your body to mount a response against it. It's funny.

Excuse me, audience. I just had to cough. I guess talking about this is giving me subliminal thoughts about the sickness. So there is a difference in our body. That's why some people believe that the vaccine is so important because our body is basically prepared to fight it, I guess, in a different sense. Instead of throwing all these crazy things at it, after we've had the vaccine, our body knows how to fight it. One thing that is important to note is you can still be infected by SARS-CoV-2 after having a vaccine. The only difference is whether or not your body is able to identify it more quickly, which is the hope of the vaccine. So it doesn't mean you can never be infected again or you cannot transmit it to somebody else, which is why the CDC keeps changing these mask guidelines.

You can still carry COVID-19 and be infected with it but not have the symptoms because your body is able to stop it before it produces symptoms. Okay. All right.

So, Holman, you've now hit on something and I'm going to kind of go down another trail here. You said we can still get it after we've had the vaccine and I think that's the thing that's confusing a lot of the public. In the past, when people took the vaccine for the mumps or polio or smallpox or chickenpox or whatever, they thought, okay, I can never get sick. A vaccine means I will never get it.

And I think this is the first time in modern history where people are hearing that's not true. If you get the vaccine, you can still get sick. That is the message that is confusing our listeners because they've always been told a vaccine prevents it and you just said it doesn't. I think that a lot of this is on error of public health programs and properly informing people on what vaccines do. We've been telling people that they need to have their children vaccinated and I'm not an anti-vaxxer. I fully support vaccines but we haven't been fully explaining to people how vaccines work and why they're important. So, yes, you can still get infected but what's different is that your body knows how to find this disease particle and destroy it before it results in a lot of symptoms and you getting very sick because your body is prepared.

It is not that you cannot interact with it or it cannot be brought into your body again. It's just that your body is prepared to deal with the disease. Again, I think that's the very confusing thing because most of our listeners out there have grown up their whole lives thinking a vaccine means I'm not going to get it and we're seeing people not only get COVID-19 after they've had the vaccine but die from it. And because of that, a lot of people are saying, well, I'm not going to take the vaccine.

Why should I take it if it's not going to keep me from getting it? You've explained there's no way to keep somebody from dying if they're intended to die from it. You've just explained your body has a better chance of fighting it if they've had the vaccine.

Well, another thing that's important to note is it does take that trifecta I talked on from earlier. So if you have any immune response defect, that means your body may have a harder time fighting it. And there's also some things that make you more predisposed to harsh experiences with COVID-19. First of all, having a respiratory disorder, which I think is pretty self-explanatory from our discussion earlier, but also BMI may play a role because our fat cells... What is BMI?

BMI is a measure of your fat proportion to your body. And basically this is important because your fat cells, also known as adipose cells, actually play a role in regulating your immune system. So if you're overweight, you could be more likely to get sick? Yes, or have a certain partial response to COVID-19. And also diabetes is characterized by an overexpression of something which is called interleukin-6, which goes back to that cytokine storm from earlier because it further increases the inflammation experienced by patients undergoing those longitudinal cases of COVID. And also cardiovascular disease may play a role since SARS-CoV-2's interaction with that receptor we talked about earlier could result in blood clotting. So there's a lot of other body factors that can interact with COVID, so even if your body knows what COVID looks like, other areas of your body that are already producing things that would add to COVID's effects may still play a role.

So if you're overweight, if you've got diabetes, heart disease, or some kind of respiratory or lung situation, your body's basically weaker and you're more susceptible to the disease and possibly even death from the disease. Yes. And we've just got a few minutes left, but how many people that get COVID are actually dying from it? I heard something about 80% of the deaths are from people over 65, is that true?

Yes. So why would this happen? For one, the immune system is less effective as you age. And furthermore, there's a part of the immune system known as a lymphocyte which is significantly lower as you age. And what's key though is the organization of health factors. If you've got other things going on in your body, your body's obviously putting more energy into aiding those other aspects than just focusing on COVID. So you just have more overall that you're fighting and your immune system is under more stress.

So we've just got a few minutes left. Tell me real quickly about a vaccine. I know there are several types and there are some in other countries, but I think there are basically three in the United States. What are they?

What's the difference between them? So first of all, according to the CDC, quote, all currently authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and reduce your risk of severe illness, end quote. So in the United States right now, the CDC has approved Pfizer for those ages 12 and up, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are for ages 18 and up. So there are three, one called Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Now Pfizer and Moderna both require two doses, whereas the Johnson & Johnson only requires a one dose shot.

Why is that? So Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines, which I'll get into in just a minute, but they function a little bit differently than the viral vector vaccines, which is what Johnson & Johnson is. Okay. So I personally received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Now this is the traditional vaccine option. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a type of viral vector vaccine. So viral vector vaccines have been in use since the 1970s, and essentially an inactive form of the virus is injected into your body.

So how does that work? Remember the antibodies we talked about earlier? Well, by inserting these viral vectors, we're giving our bodies a chance to learn what SARS-CoV-2 looks like so we can prepare the adaptive immune response to recognize it and kill it early. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are different though, because they are mRNA vaccines. And why this might be concerning to some people is because mRNA vaccines are relatively new.

We do not have the same extensive data on how they impact the body, especially with generational impacts such as pregnancy and fertility. So how they work is by inserting mRNA, which is something used by the body to make proteins. And this results in triggering the immune response, which then produces antibodies. And the idea is that these antibodies will later protect you when SARS-CoV-2 inserts its own mRNA into your body, because remember we talked about how it was an RNA plus since virus. The end goal of both types of vaccines is essentially the same. And I believe a lot of the hesitancy on this issue stems from the relatively quick development of these vaccines and the pressure placed on people by the federal government. So if I can interrupt you, so there are three vaccines, and there are others evidently in other countries around the world, but in the United States there are three that are approved for use, the Pfizer and Moderna, and both of those take two shots in what's like a two or three week time period between taking them?

Roughly two weeks. What's the purpose of that? They give your body a chance to react to it. So it basically does two rounds. So it gives it the virus basically twice.

Not exactly. It doesn't give you the virus. It gives you either an mRNA that's close to what the virus is or a protein basically. It makes you make proteins that look like what COVID would make in your body.

Okay, and the Johnson & Johnson is a traditional. So what scares people, we've got to wrap it up pretty quickly here, but what scares people about these MRNAs, and I think some people don't realize, if you're concerned about the mRNA, then the Johnson & Johnson might be the option for them. And that's me talking, not you, but what is it about the mRNA? You said, I know that some people are concerned that it could cause fertility, although there's no science to prove that or disprove it. But is that the big concern among a lot of people? I think that's one of the major concerns, fertility and pregnancy, because those take generations.

And while we may have, let's say, max of probably two years of research on these current vaccines that are out right now, those types of questions take many, many years to answer. Okay, well, there's not much time left, we've got to wrap it up. So we might have to do another show on this.

But folks, we've gotten pretty deep here, as you can tell, I'm going to use a lot smaller, smarter than me. So if you had to wrap it up, tell us real quick some things that we need to know. So I'm going to end this with a few statistics of what's currently going on. As of five days ago, 72% of the adult population in the United States has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Black and Hispanic people remain less likely than their white counterparts to have received a vaccine. And data shows that overall, in 40 different states, the percentage of white people who have received at least one COVID vaccine dose was 50%, which is roughly 1.3 times higher than the rate for black people at 40% and 1.1 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people at 45%.

And this is of August 16th of 2021. And I only bring this up to say that I believe there's a major misconception that white people primarily oppose the vaccine because there are a lot of ethnic and racial minorities that have a lot of concerns about vaccines as well. And I think it's important to highlight that this is pretty widespread concern, not limited to one racial or ethnic group. Well, Holman, thank you. You've given us a lot of information. I encourage people to go do research. And I want to ask Holman to give us some links that you can follow in the description of this show to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine.

We want to encourage you to pray about it, seek the Lord's guidance, and do what you feel is best for you and your family. Holman, thanks for being on the show today. Thank you for having me. And y'all, thank you for joining me today. I'm Chris Hughes, and this is The Christian Perspective. Please subscribe and like our podcast, and please share it with your friends on social media. Now let's go change the culture for Jesus.

Thank you for listening. The Christian Perspective with Chris Hughes. Learn more about impacting the culture for Jesus. Visit This is the Truth Network.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-12 22:12:20 / 2023-09-12 22:23:55 / 12

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