vaccine 50 years in the making

The 50 Year Vaccine

mRNA vaccines have been being developed since the 1970's. They were perfected just in time for the biggest crisis in modern history. Learn about how mRNA vaccines work and what a dedicated pediatrician and her staff have gone through in order to administer it to their community.

Lowell: [00:00:00] So I heard that a pediatric clinic near me had a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine being delivered the next day. So I went online and made an appointment for the following morning at 10:30 AM. The instruction said you walk in exactly on time, not early or late. I arrived 15 minutes early and let’s do a podcast while I waited at 10:30 AM.

I got out of my car and walked up to the door. A woman opened the door and escorted me into a room where physician was seated in front of a computer. The doctor asked for my name and looked it up on the computer. While the nurse prepared the shot, the doctor then filled out my vaccination card while the nurse injected an MRI and a vaccine into my left arm.

The doctor told me when my next appointment was to get the second dose and hand me my card, a wave of relief washed over me saying, thank you. Just didn’t seem like enough, but it was really all I could muster in the moment that was a score to the waiting area where I sat for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t have an adverse reaction.

And then I went home. I felt no after effects, my arm was barely even sore from the needle. Three weeks later was exactly the same, but this time I did feel after effects. The morning after I woke up, I felt just a bit off and my joints were sore. I laid in bed for a while and then went back to sleep till 2:00 PM.

When I got up, I still felt a bit sore, but mostly fine. And that was the extent of the effects I experienced in the second dose. There’s a lot of disinformation going around about the vaccines. So I’m going to address that in this episode.

My name is Lowell Brillante and this is prodigy.

You may already know this, but COVID-19 is not named because it’s the 19th version of COVID C O stands for Corona. VI stands for virus and the D stands for disease. The 19 is because it was discovered in 2019, Corona viruses are RNA viruses, which is the same type as the flu Murcia, hepatitis C, a Bola, rabies, polio, and others.

I kind of felt compelled to do an episode about the vaccines. So I reached out to the physician who selflessly put countless hours into administering mine. Hello? Hi, this is Dr. Jane Wilcow. He’s a pediatrician at Dekab pediatric center and has been practicing for over 35 years. Her office has been administering the Pfizer vaccine.

How did you go about getting a shipment of it?

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:02:26] With much difficulty. So the process in Georgia was you could apply to be a provider back in December, slightly complicated, but not that hard for, especially for us that give vaccine in pediatrics. So I did that and it was approved right away and I thought I’d get a first shipment way back in December

Lowell: [00:02:47] in January, the state decided to go in another direction and mainly supply places that were equipped for mass vaccinations.

Since Dr. Wilkov’s patient population is under 65. They didn’t provide her with the supply of the vaccine, but this didn’t stop her.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:03:03] sent a whole lot of emails and a whole lot of phone calls. And finally got the ear of a, a senior policy advisor with Dr. Toomey.

Lowell: [00:03:09] Dr. Kathleen Toomey is the commissioner of the Georgia department of public health.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:03:14] And she was super nice and we spoke numerous times yet her hands were tied because supply issues and distribution issues and someday, someday, someday,

Lowell: [00:03:26] Dr. Wilcov continued working to get a supply of the vaccine.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:03:29] Sunday night, I think it was March the 14th or so. Um, she called me at home and said, Hey, would you like Pfizer vaccine?

Lowell: [00:03:39] Pfizer is a really difficult vaccine to administer. It comes in trays of 1,170 doses and it requires cold storage. So you basically have two weeks to get 1,170 shots into arms.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:03:52] That number seemed like a daunting amount of vaccine to go from zero to 1,170

Lowell: [00:03:58] then three weeks later, you have to do it again for the second dose.

Dr. Wilcovknew it was no small task, but this is what she had been working for.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:04:05] And I was like, um, sure.

Lowell: [00:04:07] That first shipment arrived on Friday, March 19th.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:04:12] And we started vaccinating on Saturday, the 20th of March.

Lowell: [00:04:14] Dr. Wilcov was obviously very tired. You can hear in her voice.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:04:20] The only hope of not just us in our small little bevel, but the country, the world, getting back to any semblance of normal was the majority of people to become vaccinated

From the get go, we were just committed to whatever small piece we could play, in, helping the community. So vaccinations seemed the natural fit because that’s what we do for a living in pediatrics.

Lowell: [00:04:43] How difficult was it to do those 1,170 vaccinations twice.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:04:49] Oh, well now we’re on our fifth, fifth lot, so, well, we just actually just now opened up the fourth tray.

It was difficult and the process has been unbelievably consuming and enormous and logistics have been. Crazy, but we jumped right in and we were a little bit nervous the first day because we weren’t sure, first of all, we weren’t sure when the vaccine was exactly going to come. So we couldn’t plan anything.

We had some word of mouth that we’re getting vaccine we’re getting vaccine. And, um, so the first time we tried, it was on a Saturday morning when we were typically closed. So we didn’t have any other of our regular patients in the office. And we could all focus on figuring out how to do this.

Lowell: [00:05:31] Now dekalb pediatric center is very well run, but not that big an office.

I mean, they have seven physicians, four nurse practitioners and 13 staff members, which include their medical assistants and front office staff. This was a monumental task.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:05:46] Think we did maybe 250 or so that first morning, and by Monday it was, it was crazy. Emails were coming, phones were ringing. Um, the word had kind of gotten out.

Lowell: [00:05:58] Right about that time, the eligibility changed so 16 and 17 year olds with some type of chronic illness, which was very loosely defined, became eligible to get vaccinated. However, the only vaccine currently licensed for that age group is Pfizer. There’s two basic reasons why vaccines aren’t yet approved for people under the age of 16.

One is priority. Studies have shown that COVID is less severe in that age group. So it makes sense to prioritize those with the highest risk of mortality. Second is because their immune system is still developing. So that may require a smaller dose, which requires separate trials. As of today, April 20th, Pfizer has submitted their adolescent trial for review with a reported 100% efficacy in ages, 12 to 15 Medina and Johnson and Johnson both have trials underway.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:06:43] So now it wasn’t just the populations that were beyond our scope of practice. It was our own patients and their friends, and they all wanted their life back and they all wanted the vaccine and they all texted each other and went through this crazy social media network. And before we knew it, we used 1,170 and six days.

Everybody was working overtime. Every single person played a, played a role in making this happen. It was all hands on deck. Um, Monumental effort to, to make it happen.

Lowell: [00:07:16] Have you seen like very many myths going around about the COVID vaccine? Like excuses or reasons not to get it?

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:07:24] Oh, well, there’s, there’s a lot of that.

Certainly even among our staff initially, um, it took. A few months of convincing. Um, and now everybody here is, is vaccinated. So it was a little bit of a slow rollout. It was a new vaccine. So for some people, it was just, they wanted to make sure see what was going to happen. They didn’t want to be the first in line.

Lowell: [00:07:47] In the beginning of the pandemic, the public had no idea how long it would take to create a vaccine. Then seemingly out of nowhere, we had to Pfizer and Moderna both announced they had developed one and were beginning clinical trials. This was incredible news in the past vaccines took years to create and test.

So naturally people think this one must’ve been rushed through

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:08:08] the perception that it was faster threw people off and it, you know, was authorized at the end of a long political crazy year. And it seemed to all of a sudden go from zero to we’ve got this vaccine, go get it.

Lowell: [00:08:23] Traditional vaccines, use a piece of the virus called an antigen made from a weaker or inactive version of the virus.

Once introduced your immune system learns to recognize it in the future. Indigents can also be introduced with a viral vector vaccine, which uses a modified version of a different virus. This is the type that Johnson and Johnson created. Am RNA vaccines, bypass the need for introducing a part of the virus by delivering the code for the antigens directly to yourselves so that your body makes it on its own.

This is a big advantage because scientists don’t actually need the virus to manufacture a vaccine. They don’t need to spend months or years creating a weakened version of it. And they don’t need to spend time creating adjuvants, which enhance the immune system’s response to the vaccine. All they need is the viruses sequence.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:09:15] The messenger RNA vaccines had been being studied for years and years and years for other reasons. And to kind of take this genetic code and do what they do in the lab was not the hard part. The years of previous development was what made this be able to happen so quickly. But that’s a really hard concept for people to, to understand, I think to most lay people, it’s a, it’s a new vaccine.

Um, for a new virus that nobody ever heard of

Lowell: [00:09:42] Scientists have spent the last 50 years creating an effective a vaccine once created, you can swap a new RNA to target a specific virus. So when the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered scientists immediately sequences genome, since then, it’s been sequenced over 100,000 times.

Since it’s an RNA virus, we could quickly create an MRI and a vaccine ready for testing in days or weeks. But during this vaccine was ready for preliminary testing, less than a month after the genome sequence was published.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:10:10] It’s been more difficult for some, some folks to kind of get over that fear of something new fear of not wanting to be the one being code experimented on wanting to make sure that it truly was going to work without the side effects that the initial claims were.

Lowell: [00:10:31] I didn’t experience side effects from the first dose, but I did from the second, last thing about six hours. This was my body reacting to the antigens and building immunity. It’s perfectly normal and shows that the vaccine is working. If you don’t experience any, it doesn’t mean it isn’t working though.

Some people just react differently.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:10:50] That was being balanced though, by fear of COVID. So it was a ying and yang, and a lot of people really struggled with that early on. The interesting thing that was in pediatrics, that, that hasn’t been the case at all these 16 and 17 year olds are chomping at the bit to get in here and get vaccinated.

Um, and we’re hoping very soon it’s going to be authorized for the 12 to 15 year age group. And we have people calling every day already wanting to be on a waiting list for a vaccine that’s not even approved yet for that. Age group. They’re so anxious to get, to get, um, get their kids vaccinated.

Lowell: [00:11:21] The mRNA vaccine was decades in the making and it’s perfectly safe.

In fact, human trials are already underway using mRMA vaccines to target other diseases and even some forms of cancer.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:11:31] I think for the hesitant people, it’s more the one-on-one relationships. We and peers probably have been the best thing for hesitant people. And what do you mean by that is one person in the family gets the vaccine and the other four hesitant people are, you know, watching, waiting shoo.

They did. Okay. Okay. Now I’ll get the vaccine and then if they can get it in a doctor’s office where they can ask her questions and there’s a little bit more privacy and. Some people are just anxious about vaccines in general. Nevermind this vaccine, they faint, they get dizzy there. They don’t want to sit in the chair in the middle of CVS drug store.

I think we’ve been able to overcome a lot of that by using the model that we literally created four weeks ago and have just run with

Lowell: [00:12:20] Getting the vaccine was such a huge relief. And I’m incredibly grateful that Dr Wilcow and her team put so much time and energy into administering it.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:12:28] We’ve heard cheering out in the observation area or outside.

A lot of people wait outside after high-fiving a fist bumping, um, huge relief, um, huge relief. As, as one Tangier told us, like I I’m getting my life back. And, and that’s really stuck with us and it’s kept us going when we’re actually exhausted doing this. It’s, it’s been overwhelming to give this many vaccines in such a short period of time.

The, the behind the scenes dynamics of making this happen are just probably seems so seamless on the outside. But gosh, there’s a lot of work that goes behind the scenes to make this happen. The payoff for us is seeing how happy everybody is. Um, and we’ve moved so many people through. I don’t even think there’s been a five minute.

Wait, we, we got this down to a science and with every single staff member on board, every person who was scared who gets it, um, we’ve had celebrations. We’ve helped people celebrate that. We’re so nervous. Talk them through, listen to their fears. Um, it’s been very rewarding.

Lowell: [00:13:32] Even the vaccines are now available to everyone over the age of 16, the fight still isn’t over we’ll need booster shots.

And we don’t exactly know when the reason for that is the vaccine is new. So we have to see when it begins wearing off in the trial group. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I was never really concerned about my own death. I rarely get sick and have some of the invulnerability feeling that goes along with relative youth.

That concern was always about spreading the virus and being indirectly responsible for someone’s death. The problem with people refusing the vaccine is not that they might die. I mean, that would suck, but ultimately it’s a risk they’re choosing to take the real problem with people not getting vaccinated is mutation vaccines are effective because they are built to teach the immune system how to recognize a very specific protein.

The longer a virus is being actively transmitted. The more likely it is to mutate. And if it mutates enough, then it will no longer be recognized by a vaccinated immune system. So refusing to get the vaccine isn’t gambling with just your own life. It’s everyone’s. I know this isn’t driven by malintent.

It’s mostly fear. But you should fear the virus more,

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:14:40] get vaccinated, get vaccinated, um, take a breath if you’re nervous and go for it. And you’re going to feel so good after. And, um, it’s a little bit of a false sense of security right now that this is. Gone away, but the cases are on the rise. Again, the very answer out there.

We’re all probably going to need boosters. Um, this isn’t like we snap our fingers and coronavirus is over. Okay. We do this for a year and now we’re done, um, to achieve herd immunity. We’re going to have to get vaccines out to kids. They’re a huge part of the population. Uh, we’ve got a long way to go.

Um, and the right direction is the more people that get vaccinated the quicker we’re going to get back to any semblance of normal.

Lowell: [00:15:27] The vaccines are perfectly safe. As of today, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is paused while they reviewed the data due to six reported cases of blood clots. Keep in mind, this was out of 7 million doses given.

So the risk is less than one in a million. This is a very rare and tiny risk compared to the 16,000 people that die each year from ed CEDS, like ibuprofen or the 95,000 alcohol-related desperate year. If you’re listening to this show, there’s a good chance. You don’t need to be convinced. But I think most people know a perfectly rational person that is hesitant to get the vaccine.

You can help out in a small, but powerful way by listening to their concerns and providing some resources for them, ask them to speak with their doctor. And if they still refuse, I mean, at least you tried, right.

You need a pediatrician in the Dekalb area. Then consider Dr. Wilcov’s clinic dekalb pediatric center.

Dr Jane Wilkov: [00:16:21] For given the COVID vaccine on one end of the hall and we’re giving the routine childhood immunization series on the other end of the hall,

Lowell: [00:16:27] you can find them online That’s Dekab, P E D

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. You’re welcome. So this was the bonus episode of prodigy. I’m in production for season two right now, which starts in June. I have a ton of really cool episodes plan. I’m doing one in social engineering, cyber hacking, lucid dreaming, a big followup to the ADHD episode and a lot more.

So please subscribe to the show because I’ll be back soon. With another episode of prodigy, prodigy was created, produced by me, Lowell Berlanti the executive producer is Tyler clang. Special. Thanks to Jen Abrams and Jane Wilkof prodigy is the bread. You shouldn’t buy a radio for more podcasts from iHeartRadio.

Visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.