Oct. 11—Two weeks ago, I wrote about the history of vaccines and the overwhelming preponderance of evidence that they do not — and COVID-19 vaccines, in particular, will not — cause long-term health problems in the vast, vast majority of cases.
At the beginning of the column, I advised any who believe in conspiracy theories not to read it, since reason of any kind won't change their minds.
Some read it anyway, and from these folks I received a handful of emails ranging from angry to insulting. One insisted that the vaccine conversation must be tied to a wide-ranging political debate, stretching as far as Joe Biden's foreign and immigration policies. Others sent me long strings of links to misinformation about the "dangers" of the vaccine.
Thankfully, the intended audience of the column — people who don't believe in conspiracy theories but have legitimate health concerns — also read and reacted to it.
Several emailed me to explain their personal dilemmas. One related developing severe symptoms from the flu vaccine. Another reader worried that a drastic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine would complicate her other serious medical conditions.
Two readers pointed out that basing projections about the long-term safety of COVID-19 vaccines on the history of other vaccines doesn't take into account differences. One wrote that COVID-19 vaccines use "M-RNA technology ... a completely different delivery system."
OK, here's a legitimate concern, so let's address it.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do indeed use a new mRNA technology that was years in the making. Instead of putting a weakened or inactivated germ into the body, these vaccines essentially teach cells to produce a piece of a protein to trigger an immune response.
The immune response produces antibodies, which protect against infection if we come into contact with COVID-19.
While this technology is different than that used for past vaccines, it's been proved safe and highly effective through rigorous testing, U.S. Food and Drug Administration full approval and tens of millions of doses administered.
Here are a few other important facts to know about the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, taken directly from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
—The vaccines cannot give someone COVID-19.
—mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19.
—mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept.
—They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.
—The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.
If you still don't trust the mRNA technology, you have the option of getting a vaccine that uses "old-fashion," time-tested, traditional delivery in the body — the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot.
I hope this information plays some small role in persuading at least a few of you who have been hesitant to get vaccinated. Read reliable news sources and follow the health directives of the CDC.
Like the reader who sent the following email, you'll reach the right decision:
"I was once very skeptical before they (COVID-19) vaccinations came out," the reader wrote.
"I did my own research and made my own conclusion. ... I based much of my decision on the exact references you cited your information from," the reader continued. "I went ahead and got the Pfizer shots with no side effects.
"I wish people would do their due diligence and grow some common sense. This political BS is killing people. Vaccines save lives!!!!!"
Editor Scott Underwood's column appears Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 640-4845.