Guest Column – ‘We Got Lucky’
BY KEITH TUCKER
Special to The Enterprise
Does anyone know the whole story of the amazing COVID vaccine? After looking at all of the information, it would seem events fell into place at just the right time. The work on using RNA to cure diseases began in 1990. It took until 2020 for the last puzzle piece to fall into place. There have been issues that have taken five years to work out just one problem. And there were several. Like the vaccine worked, but killed the patient from the side effects. So in a nutshell it was like we had an entire automobile ready to go and we only needed to finish the motor and install it in the car.
From the time Moderna got the genetic data in their hands on the virus, they had the vaccine analysis done on paper in 48 hours. After that, it was a matter of manufacturing and testing. The vast majority of the time was spent on testing. What was interesting about this entire venture is that many diseases could have already been cured, but the cost of the old method of gene splicing was too expensive per patient: up to a half a million dollars per person. Neither the government nor the drug companies was willing to foot that bill.
Unlike this deal where the government gave a blank check to the drug companies. Operation warp speed was a great success. They normally only work on drugs that they think will make them money. This process makes the vaccine available at $20 to $40 a shot. So as soon as this pandemic is over, other diseases will fall like dominoes. Sickle cell, even AIDS, are some of the first ones. Those are in fact what they were working on when this hit. Researching this I discovered there are certain sets of people whose offspring are guaranteed to have a child with sickle cell. It’s in the blood type and genetics.
One other thing that had been done really helped. A few years ago, the drug companies asked the government to fund the building of large manufacturing plants to use in case of an outbreak. They were built and being used, but the deal was, if needed, they would use the war powers act to convert to what was needed. They were actually thinking of something like Ebola with a 50-percent mortality rate that spreads like COVID. So we had all the right pieces in place at just the right time to come up with a way to deal with this.
I say we were very lucky. A year earlier and we would not have been quite as ready. We are definitely getting our money’s worth on this vaccine. This type is thought to last for years even a lifetime. At up to 95-percent effective, it is way above what we had hoped for and may eradicate flu as a major cause of death because of the speed that the new strains can be addressed. Had the world had the population density of today, and the ease of travel that we enjoy back in 1917, the Spanish flu would have been far worse. It’s better to be lucky than good, but being both is an unbeatable combination.
Editor’s note: Keith Tucker is a Greenfield resident and owner of The Marble Shop.