3 misconceptions begging for correction

February 4th, 2022

Started in February 2020, the SAJO blog is providing a thread through the pandemic with up-to-date information and suggestions around SARS-CoV-2.

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Dear readers,

Today, we want to dispel three misconceptions in a nutshell that media and politics are bombarding us with.

It is regarding the terms, gene vaccine, mild disease, and endemic.

Gene-vaccine: What is that?

Let’s get started with the most controversial one, the gene vaccine. In certain shady circles this is also called gene therapy or genetic changes of the vaccinated. In the context of the mRNA vaccines all three concepts are utter nonsense. These vaccines do not transfer a gene into the chromosomes. Period. No gene therapy, no genetical change.

The gene vaccine now is also being called gene-based vaccine. Now this is interesting, since as a contrast the new Novavax vaccine is being cited. The latter consists of protein, not mRNA. But where is this protein coming from? From cells, infected with a baculovirus modified to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This is called a genetically modified organism. There is not a single vaccine, that is not based upon genes.

Vaccines safe lives.

The mRNA is simply working as a courier (messenger RNA) conveying between DNA (carrying the genes) and ribosomes (the protein factory). The courier is transferring the message and subsequently is being dismantled. With Novavax this is happening inside insect cells, with Moderna and BionTech/Pfizer within human cells.

One advantage the mRNA vaccines have over the protein vaccine: Since human cells are producing the spike protein, a broader immune defense is being triggered.

We had covered vaccines previously. For further information, please go to: https://www.sajo-innovation.de/blog/the-dead-vaccine-fairy-tale/

Mild disease: Does this mean all-clear?

This leads us to the “mild disease” with Omicron. Omicron seems to result in lower numbers of severe cases than its predecessors. This is being called “mild disease”. Unfortunately, to lay people this is misleading. “Mild” is indicating that the disease symptoms in many cases do not lead to hospitalization and intubation. Nevertheless, an infection may put you into your bed for days or weeks. And there is no data on long-COVID for Omicron yet. So far for “mild”.

Mild does not mean “harmless”!

Infections with Omicron still result in human casualties.

Endemic situation: Is SARS-COV-2 harmless now?

Many politicians are propagating Omicron being a sign for SARS-CoV-2 entering an endemic situation. This is being misunderstood as the good news of a soon return to normal. This is a mistake.

Endemic is meaning a virus is reaching a constant level of infection among a population. It does not mean the virus being harmless.

Malaria and tuberculosis are two infectious diseases that are endemic in certain regions around the world. There, each year 2 million people are dying from these diseases. Endemic also does not mean there will be no major flare ups. SARS-CoV-2 will haul more mutants upon us in the future. Omicron should be a warning: it literally came out of nowhere. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00215-2

A family tree of most common SARS-CoV-2 variants (source: nature). You may zoom in and out using CTRL+ and CTRL-

Of the three originally discussed possible origins of Omicron, one is slowly coming to the fore. It is known that SARS-CoV-2 is infecting mammalians. These animal reservoirs tell us that we cannot get rid of SARS-CoV-2. It has already been found in cats, minks, and deer. Now, a research group has found evidence that it might have jumped back from rodents. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jgg.2021.12.003

This is offering new avenues for the virus to develop further variants. So, there is some suspense to all of us.

For more information on endemicity, here is a short, but concise article by the evolutionary biologist Aris Katzourakis of the University of Oxford: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00155-x

And, finally, another word about the fourth vaccine dose:

Time and again, media are publishing speculations if a fourth vaccination makes sense. Now, in Israel this had been administered countrywide. The results were sobering. While a third dose (vulgo booster) had a significant effect on the immune response against Omicron, the fourth one did have a marginal one.

Hence, a third dose makes sense. It helps to protect vaccinees from severe disease.

The fourth does not add more protection, it does not harm though. This again brings us to the problem that large parts of the world are struggling to get vaccines, because rich nations are hoarding doses. We love to repeat ourselves: Regions with low vaccination rates will give rise to new viral variants. We should have a great interest in sending vaccines into these regions.

The scientific articles cited here are available free of charge. This is exemplary.

American and British newspapers are also making articles dealing with COVID-19 freely available. Everyone has access, even without a subscription.

German newspapers publishing well researched articles about COVID-19 are refusing to do so. Why?

Globally, there is a huge load of rubbish being spread about the pandemic. The rubbish is available for free. Thus, the German media are nourishing the conspiracy believers.

Nevertheless, we wish you a refreshing weekend. Stay informed with reputable sources.

Yours, Joerg

Dr. Jörg Baumann and Dr. Sabine Breun, both PhDs, virologists, immunologists and founders of SAJO. Both are specialized in infectious diseases. Since the 90s, Dr. Baumann has been working on zoonoses and how pathogens overcome the species barrier. Since 2000, Dr. Breun works on the interaction of viruses with the immune system. Both work as a team. SAJO enables new antivirals – antivirals of the next generation to fight pandemics.

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