I Know What's In The Vaccine. It Is Hundreds Of Years of Progress.

Dr. Edward Jenner performing his first vaccination against smallpox on James Phipps, May 14, 1796, oil on canvas by Ernest Board.Credit…DEA Picture Library/Getty Images

There is a lengthy meme circulating on Facebook that begins “I’m vaccinated and, no, I don’t know what’s in it.” I’m vaccinated as well, and I want to tell you that I do know what is in the COVID-19 vaccines, be it Moderna, or Pfizer, or even poor old Johnson & Johnson.

Have I read the list of ingredients? Have I checked for additives, preservatives, or carcinogens? No, because the vaccine contents that I know about won’t be listed on any label. The ingredients I speak of are the men and women, the giants of science, on whose shoulders the current tier of scientists and researchers stand.

Let’s start with the microbe hunters, who first identified and clarified the concept that there was a world of tiny organisms and that these might cause disease. Names like Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and Ignaz Semmelweis. There is an essence of all of them in the vaccine.

Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick–the best known, but not the only, scientists whose work led to the understanding of the structure of DNA. Francisco Mojica, who added CRISPR to our lexicon as a way of manipulating DNA. There is plenty of them in today’s mRNA vaccines.

You must have heard of Edward Jenner, Jonas Salk, and Albert Sabin. Shall we call them the great-grandfather, the grandfather, and the father of vaccines? And what about all the scientists who have been striving for 30 years to create a vaccine against the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the author of AIDS? Surely the blood, the sweat, and the brain cells of all these investigators are part of every “jab.”

That is how science grows. We take the knowledge of our ancestors and add on to it. We test new ideas, accept the ones that seem to work, discard the ones that don’t.

Accepted science changes! New data forces us to challenge each other, to consider new answers to old questions. And on top of that, nature is not constant. So while Newton’s Laws of Motion have stood the test of almost 350 years, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with us for less than two years, mutates. It is not because the science is “bad” that recommendations about the vaccine and other matters related to COVID-19 need to be updated on a regular basis. It is because life, science, and the virus evolve.

So I will continue to put my faith in science–in the men and women who have made tremendous advances in our knowledge of the world around us. The vaccines aren’t perfect, but we have them because, as Isaac Newton himself said, we have been standing on the shoulders of all those giants.


Please forward or share on Facebook. If we can each convince one person to vaccinate…


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Filed under: COVID, Health, Vaccines

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