By Don “Doc” Sanders
I have had more than enough of Dr. Fauci’s pronouncements. Mind you, I also contracted SARS-CoV-2, or COVID-19, after my wife, Kris, passed away from it. And I have been vaccinated twice with Moderna’s messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine since then.
If you are an old codger (or codgeress) reading this, get vaccinated. If you are young with no predisposing conditions, I wouldn’t get vaccinated or subject healthy children to it.
In the past month, there has been a huge game-changer in COVID vaccines developed without the brand-new mRNA vaccine technologies, which haven’t yet withstood the test of time for people of child-bearing age. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with the new vaccines, but there is no research regarding their long-term effects on reproduction and metabolic and genetic-regulated systems in growing children and young adults. (Most of you probably don’t know the story on the medication Thalidomide in pregnant women, but look it up.)
I am a strong advocate that if you are over the age of 55 or have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes, you should get vaccinated twice or more. Even though the pandemic appears to be nearly over, COVID will stay with us as an endemic disease, occurring at a low prevalence.
Here is the exciting story about the game-changing COVID vaccine I mentioned. Drs. Hotez and Bottazi originally were doing SARS virus vaccine research in Washington, D.C., but were receiving no research support from the government. They moved their research to Texas Children’s Hospital and the Baylor College of Medicine. They soon obtained private philanthropic funding to develop a new vaccine for COVID, using existing technology that has been around for probably 30 or more years.
This well-established technology, a subunit vaccine concept, has been used to manufacture vaccines since early in my veterinary career (now, that’s old!). The technology results in very few vaccine reactions and has a long-term safety record in women of child-bearing age, as well as children.
A subunit vaccine uses a snippet of a viral protein from a disease-causing virus. The vaccine stimulates the patient (animal or human) to develop immunity to the partial viral protein. The blocked protein prevents the whole virus from replicating, as our immune system stops the chunk of this virus. This is kind of like putting wheel locks on a car so that when a thief attempts to steal the car, it can’t be driven away. Yet the car is still functional.
A subunit vaccine is very effective, cheap to make, and affordable for third world countries that don’t have the economic wherewithal for mRNA vaccines, nor the expertise to statistically predict the safety of vaccines. Subunit vaccines have an excellent track record for safety over many decades.
You may have read my story about ivermectin’s development to treat Schistosomiasis and Leishmaniasis (December 2021). Hotez and Bottazi performed research on ivermectin and developed vaccines for these diseases over the past two decades.
Because of their experience, they had a leg up on developing vaccines and treatments for what were called “neglected tropical diseases.” In 2003, when SARS appeared, they developed a vaccine for SARS. The SARS vaccination uses almost the identical technology as what was needed for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Using subunit proteins and existing technologies they have developed a safe, low-cost vaccine named CORBEVAX. It uses extracted subunit proteins contained in the COVID virus. They attempted to get our government (read Fauci) interested in this safe, low-cost technology. Our government wasn’t impressed (more on that next month).
Hotez and Bottazi then sought private charitable funding.
Why did they move their research from Washington, D.C., to Texas? Because of that state’s philanthropic environment, with organizations such as the Kleberg Foundation, MD Anderson Foundation, the Dunn Foundation, JPB Foundation and Tito’s Vodka. (Don’t ask me how the vodka company got involved, but maybe that is how they got the foundation directors limbered up to give.)
The CORBEVAX vaccine technology has been made available to the Indian government, and the vaccine has been released in India on an emergency release basis.
Indian vaccine maker Biological E. Limited is now making the vaccine — a hundred million doses per month, with 300 million doses already distributed in India.
The CORBEVAX research team had every right to be optimistic based on recent unpublished research demonstrated early on, in a study of 3,000 volunteers. It is currently being tested on the Omicron strain with results pending.
One drawback of the CORBEVAX is that it takes more time to develop a new vaccine than with the mRNA technology. (Have you wondered why the total emphasis has been on vaccines rather than inexpensive treatments? Stay tuned for next month’ column.)
Policy makers shouldn’t be tied to one technology over another. As Dr. Hotez was quoted, “……the U.S. vaccination program wasn’t balanced with new technologies incorporated with a portfolio of oldie but goody treatments and vaccines.”
For more, visit npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2022/01/05/1070046189/a-texas-team-comes-up-with-a-covid-vaccine-that could-be-a-global-game-changer.