Moderna COVID Vaccine, Is It Worth It?

Take a closer look at what is in the vaccine.

Moderna COVID Vaccine, Is It Worth It?

Chloe Fleming, Editor in Chief

One of the many things plaguing our nation is the decision whether or not to get the COVID vaccine. Many people wonder, is it worth it? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Are the ingredients harmful? Of course, this is a decision that everyone will have to make for themselves in the coming years, but as of now, what we can do is look into it and see if it really is worth taking in the future.

Many different companies have rushed to create a vaccine that they can send out to the public, some even being used on the public today. Instead of looking at all of the different vaccines to decide which one is best, I looked into the Moderna COVID Vaccine, heavily focusing on the ingredients and side effects of the drug. I would like to preface my finding by saying that the Moderna vaccine has not yet been FDA approved, it is still in its clinical trials [2,14]. The vaccine is currently out on an Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, because they recognize the severity of COVID and the toll that it has taken on the world and the health systems [1,14]. The FDA also believes that currently, the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risks [2,14]. Many aspects of this vaccine are still unknown, some of which are how the vaccine will benefit those at high risk for severe COVID, people that were previously infected with COVID, how it will help people that are asymptomatic, long term safety, and how well the vaccine will protect against death [2,14].

The Moderna Vaccine is a two-dose vaccine [1,2,14], the second coming 28 days after the first. At the moment the vaccine is only used for people that are 18 or older [2,14]. Once you receive the vaccine your body may have some strange reactions [1,2,14], which is why medical professionals are monitoring patients for 15-30 minutes after the injection. The most common side effects of the vaccine are pain and discomfort at the injection site and flu like symptoms. In some cases, the injection site will swell, along with this, the lymph nodes in the arm have a chance of swelling. In rarer cases, the vaccine can cause severe allergic reactions, which usually only occurs if you have an allergy to an ingredient in the vaccine or have had previous problems in the past with vaccines. These are the side effects that have been observed by Moderna through their trial, but there could also be a few different ones as well [2,14].

Coronavirus particle. The spike proteins are the pink spikes.

Moving on to the ingredients, the Moderna vaccine is made with new, to the public, mRNA technology, lipids, and the liquid bases [2]. The main ingredient of this vaccine is mRNA, also known as, Messenger ribonucleic acid. The mRNA in the vaccine means that there is no need for an active or inactive virus to be injected into the body, unlike the flu vaccine [2,3,4,5,8]. The mRNA teaches the body how to build antibodies against the spike proteins that are found on the surface of the Corona Virus. The body recognizes that the mRNA does not belong there, and that is how the body builds its immune response to the spike proteins, this is also the cause of the flu like symptoms [1,3,4]. The labs produce the mRNA for the vaccine with chicken eggs or other mammalian cells [4]. Now for some facts that were proven false, though many believe that the Moderna vaccine uses aborted fetus cells, that is false [6]. Since this is an mRNA vaccine and has no traces of the COVID virus in it, there is no need to develop the virus on human cells for the purpose of putting it into a vaccine. Many people were also worried that the mRNA in the vaccine would change their cells in some way, however this is false. The mRNA only stays in the body long enough to help your body build the antibodies, after that it is destroyed, doing no damage to your DNA [3,8]. Though many people believe this vaccine was just whipped up in this last year, it has actually been in the process of development for the last 30 years, the mRNA portion of it. The mRNA technology has mainly been studied for use in the cancer field, but scientists have also been testing it out as the main ingredient of vaccines, so we no longer have to inject active and inactive viruses [3,4,5,8].

A diagram of lipids protecting the mRNA.

Now it’s time to look at the lipids. The purpose of the lipids or oils and fats is to protect the mRNA as it enters your body and to get it past the cell membranes so it can do its job. The lipids that Moderna has listed as being in the vaccine are; SM-102; Polythylene Glycol (PEG) 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol (SMG); cholesterol; and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC) [8,14]. Starting at the beginning, SM-102 is a major plasma membrane that joins together cholesterol and glycolipids, it is cholesterol rich [7]. PEG 2000 DMG is just used to encapsulate the mRNA [9]. Cholesterol is used to protect it while entering the body. 1,2 DSPC is also used to protect the mRNA, but it is also used to lower toxicity in drugs and to expand its shelf life. This ingredient, when tested, is known to affect the lungs.

The ingredients that make up the rest of the vaccine and makes up the liquid part are tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose [8]. Tromethamine and tromethamine hydrochloride are both used to maintain the PH of the vaccine and to make it as close to the human bodies PH as possible [9,10,11]. Some side effects of these ingredients are flu like symptoms, yellowing of the eyes and skin, confusion, increase in hunger, loss of appetite, dizziness, and anxious feelings. These ingredients are generally regarded as safe because of the low amount entering the body [10]. The next ingredient is Acetic Acid. This is naturally found in many things such as rainwater, vinegar, and petroleum. Acetic Acid is flammable and corrosive. It is mainly used for its antibacterial and antifungal properties in both food and medicine [12]. In food it is used as a flavor enhancer, but is also used as a preservative. In medicine, this is usually used to treat ear infections. It is currently being used in clinical trials for cancer research. Due to the small amounts that this is used in, it is generally regarded as safe. However, if used in large amounts and the body is exposed to it, it can cause burns, pneumonia, ulcers and much more [12]. Sodium Acetate, the next ingredient, is the salt form of acetic acid. This ingredient is also used to make the vaccine’s PH closer to the human body’s. This is also safe in the small amounts that it’s given in, but even in larger amounts, it causes less problems than the acetic acid [13]. The final ingredient, sucrose, is sugar. The sugar is also used to balance the PH, it is also used to stabilize the vaccine and keep it potent [8].

During clinical trials the vaccine has had some bad reactions to facial fillers [15]. The vaccine causes the immune system to go into overdrive, so the immune system targets the fillers as well as the vaccine causing where the fillers are to become painful and swollen. In some cases, people even have anaphylactic reactions [15].

Overall, I think that the vaccine is still too young to determine if it’s worth the risk. The scientists still have so many questions left unanswered, and don’t know how long the vaccine takes to kick in or how long it will last. Of course, it is up to you to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks and the unknown.