More vaccine questions and answers!
1) How long will the protection from COVID vaccines last?
The short answer is that we don’t know. They simply have not been around long-enough to know for sure, but we will learn more as the vaccine manufacturers continue to study the patients in their trials. There is early information on a small number of patients who participated in Moderna’s phase one trial. It showed antibody responses had declined some by three months after vaccination but were still greater than the typical antibody response of people who had been recently infected with COVID-19. It is pretty dense scientific language, but a link to the actual publication is here: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2032195
Representatives from Moderna have publicly stated that they expect protection to last at least a year, but there isn’t yet published information to truly support that. Ultimately time will tell.
2) Is there fetal tissue in the vaccine?
No. There is no fetal tissue in either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The ingredients in the Moderna vaccine that most in our area will receive are as follows:
Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.
To translate that a little, there is the mRNA that causes our cells to make the spike protein of the virus so our immune systems learn to recognize it. Then there are four different types of fatty particles that make up the “coat” protecting the mRNA until it can enter our cells (mRNA is very fragile and wouldn’t make it where it needs to go on its own). The last five ingredients are small amounts of substances that make the pH of the vaccine similar to our body’s pH and remain suspended in its solution. Without making the pH similar, there would be damage to the cells surrounding the injection.
The concern about fetal tissue comes from the fact that a cell line called HEK 293 was used in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines. This cell line started from tissue taken from an elective abortion that happened in 1973 in the Netherlands. The cells were then modified by a scientist that allows them to continue to reproduce indefinitely in the lab. Ultimately, all of the billions of cells in this cell line in labs around the world are descended from those original cells. Some of the HEK 293 line of cells was used to help test whether the vaccines worked properly before the vaccines were given to humans. However, there are no parts of these cells in the vaccines.
I’ll leave a discussion of the moral issues at play to others, but I will note that the Catholic Church has explicitly stated that it is morally acceptable to receive these vaccines. The link to the Vatican’s statement on the issue is below for those who are interested.