THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR NOT BEING INSURED
Having an affordable health care plan, depending on your health insurance open enrollment to get coverage, meeting deductibles and out of pocket costs—all things healthcare and health insurance have to offer have never been more important and traumatic to modern man in the past 100 years, than since the onset of the COVID -19 pandemic.
The percentage of Americans with health insurance had already started to increase since the Affordable Care Act made it possible for families and individuals to get health insurance benefits independently and at lower costs back in 2015. But there are still people uninsured in America. In 2019, the CDC reported 14.5% of adults ages 18-64 were uninsured.
Then the pandemic hit in 2019; hospitals started to turn patients away due to lack of resources, beds, etc. Those that were admitted, if they made it out, got a bill or two in the mail. Today our economy is dealing with the effects of this pandemic.
People started asking “How much health insurance do I need? and looking into enrolling in a plan that met their needs.
Would it not be a better experience for everyone, those that need care and providers of health services, if everyone were covered under an affordable health care plan?
Now that the new mRNA vaccines bring hope, we can continue to be prepared for the future and not only ask but follow through on the question “What health insurance should I get?”
Had it not been for the work of scientists like Katalin Karikó that made the mRNA technology possible, we would be in a lot more trouble with COVID 19. To honor her breakthrough, give yourself the benefit of health insurance, you deserve it. “Get health insurance, Florida!”
HOW THE mRNA VACCINES LOWER HEALTH COSTS
Vaccinated people can still become infected with COVID-19, but their symptoms and treatments will not be as costly or last if those of people not vaccinated. To be ready for what tomorrow may bring, we not only need to have health insurance, and now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the Premium Tax Credits, we can, we also need to be vaccinated.
Thanks to the incredible mRNA technology developed by a woman immigrant in the U.S. who would not give up, Katalin Karikó, we can sleep better at night knowing that even if we get sick with COVID 19, our health insurance costs will not be as high and our chances of full recovery much greater.
How does the mRNA vaccine work against the coronavirus?
Thanks to the decades long research conducted by dedicated scientists since the 90’s and the consequential development of mRNA vaccines, the world finds new hope for the future of health care and vaccines.
The novel Coronavirus looks like the rest of its family members, the SARS-CoV, named for the disease they cause, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and the crown-like spikes that cover these organisms.
THE SARS PANDEMICS OF 2003 AND 2012 WERE A WARNING
Although known since the 1960s, only recently has this Virus family made breaking news and headlines all over the world. Already in 2003, the SARS a severe acute respiratory syndrome caused disease outbreaks in mainland China and Hong Kong. Then in 2012, MERS-CoV, wreaked havoc in the Middle East, Korea, and other countries. Interestingly, the way this virus is shaped, its spikes, are the molecular weapons used to penetrate our cells.1
As the number of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) victims rose to over 300,000 in the United Stated alone, in December 2020, the Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine received emergency use authorization, as did the Moderna COVID 19 vaccine, and both companies developed the vaccines using the same mRNA technology.
THE WOMAN BEHIND THE INCREDIBLE mRNA TECHNOLOGY
1Rabaan, A. A., Al-Ahmed, S. H., Haque, S., Sah, R., Tiwari, R., Malik, Y. S., Dhama, K., Yatoo, M. I., Bonilla-Aldana, D. K., & Rodriguez-Morales, A. J. (2020). SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-COV: A comparative overview. Le infezioni in medicina, 28(2), 174–184.
Taking into consideration that the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed took 4 years (mumps vaccine 1967), the COVID 19 Vaccine which took less than a year to accomplish, would have taken much longer to develop were it not for the research of mRNA technology.2
After flooding the vaccine research and development labs with funds, two companies, Pfizer and Moderna decided to use a theoretical vaccine technology that had yet to be put into practice. This vaccine technology known as mRNA acts differently from traditional vaccines in that instead of inoculating an altered virus into people, it encodes a messenger with the information to produce the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in our cells.
The CDC confirms that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Over 380 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered between December 2020 to September 2021.
Had it not been for decades of mRNA research carried out by Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian-American biochemist who studied the mRNA’s (synthetic messenger ribonucleic acid) genetic code for 40 years.
After her research stopped being funded in Hungary, she emigrated to Philadelphia in 1985. Although her grant proposals were turned down several times by the University of Pennsylvania Perelman’s School of Medicine and other funding channels, both public and private, she continued pursuing her research goals. Years later, she started a partnership with Drew Weissman, an immunologist, and the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research. Together they made the breakthrough in mRNA research.3
2Knezevic, I., Liu, M. A., Peden, K., Zhou, T., & Kang, H. N. (2021). Development of mRNA Vaccines: Scientific and Regulatory Issues. Vaccines, 9(2), 81. https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines9020081
3Scales, D. D. (2021, February 12). How Our Brutal Science System Almost Cost Us A Pioneer Of mRNA Vaccines. Retrieved from https://www.wbur.org/news/2021/02/12/brutal-science-system-mrna-pioneer
WHAT IS mRNA?
Messenger RNA is already present in humans. Its job is to instruct cells to make proteins. Once the virus code is mapped, introducing synthetic mRNA from the coronavirus in our bodies instruct our cells to create the right protein to fend off invading coronavirus.
But during the beginning stages of the research there were serious side effects that needed to be worked through and eliminated. Together they discovered the nucleoside modifications that suppress the side effects. Karikó and Weissman, together, hold the patent for the application of non-immunogenic, nucleoside-modified RNA. In turn this technology is licensed by BioNTech and Moderna to produce their COVID 19 vaccines.
ALTHOUGH REJECTED, SHE KEPT ON AND CREATED THE VACCINE IN LESS THAN A YEAR
In 2013, Karikó took a role as vice president at BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals and became senior vice president in 2019. Thanks to her research BioNTech and Moderna were able to develop the vaccine. Along with Dr. Drew Weissman, they have laid the foundations for the future of vaccine development.
Her entire career has been devoted to RNA of mRNA, the genetic script that carries DNA instructions to every cell in order to make proteins. She was convinced that mRNA would be capable of instructing our cells to create their own medicine and vaccines.
The theory behind the vaccines is that mRNA will tell a cell to make a protein that is used by a certain virus. This sets off the body’s immune response to fend off the actual virus once it comes in contact with it.
RECOGNIZED BY THE WORLD FOR HER MERITS
Katalin Karikó, 66, has been recognized as one of the heroes that has helped to combat the pandemic and in 2020 Public Media Person of the Year Award and The Rosenthal Award; in 2021 she was the awarded For Human Dignity, the William Exner Medal, the Széchenyi Prize, the Wilhelm Exbner Medal, the Semmelweis Prize, the Reichstein Medal, the Princes of Asturias Award, Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, the Building the Foundation Award, the Albany Medical Center Prize, and in 2022, the Vilcek Prize for Excellence in Biotechnology, the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, and there is talk of a shared Nobel-Prize in Chemistry that would not surprise anybody.
Research takes dedication, years of frustration and being able to get the funding to develop theories. What we can learn from Katalin Karikó is to never give up and keep trying. Eventually, knowledge and experience meet humanity’s needs.
What we, at the level of mere citizens amid a pandemic must rely on is the ability of mRNA to fend off the coronavirus invasion of our organism and keep our bodies from harm’s way after getting fully vaccinated. People have even agreed to take booster shots if necessary.
If you are exposed to the real coronavirus after being vaccinated, your cells will recognize it and produce the antibodies necessary to keep the disease at bay.45
4Maruggi, G., Zhang, C., Li, J., Ulmer, J. B., & Yu, D. (2019). mRNA as a Transformative Technology for Vaccine Development to Control Infectious Diseases. Molecular therapy: the journal of the American Society of Gene Therapy, 27(4), 757–772. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ymthe.2019.01.020
5Schlake, T., Thess, A., Fotin-Mleczek, M., & Kallen, K. J. (2012). Developing mRNA-vaccine technologies. RNA biology, 9(11), 1319–1330. https://doi.org/10.4161/rna.22269
However, this is not the end but the beginning of transformative medicine. According to researchers, mRNA technology can be used to develop any vaccine in less time and at lower cost than traditional methods.
6Boyle, P. (2021, March 29). MRNA technology promises to revolutionize future vaccines and treatments for cancer, infectious diseases. Retrieved from https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/mrna-technology-promises-revolutionize-future-vaccines-and-treatments-cancer-infectious-diseases