A medicine cell biologist has cleared up some of the popular vaccination myths.
Hundreds of thousands of people are being vaccinated daily across the UK with a plan for 13.9 million people to have their first dose by mid-February.
This accounts for 21% of the population, currently (figures are from January 18th, 2021), 6.1% of the population have had their first dose, according to Public Health England.
However, there are a number of people not convinced about the safety of the vaccination. In the UK, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate suggests 5.4 million people believe in the ‘anti-vaccination movement’.
The anti-vaccination movement is based upon three major claims – all of which remain unsupported by facts: ‘Covid is not dangerous’, ‘vaccines are dangerous’ and ‘experts cannot be trusted’.
HuffPost UK spoke to UCL medicine cell biologist Dr Jennifer Rohn to debunk vaccination myths that are currently circulating.
MYTH: ‘Vaccines alter your DNA’
Some rumours have circulated that the vaccine can modify your DNA, this is not only not physically possible but also not backed by a single piece of evidence, like many of the anti-vaccination myths.
Jim Corr, guitarist of Irish group The Corrs, wrote on Twitter: “The vaccine is a novel experimental RNA vaccine which will alter the very DNA of the recipient.”
The key problem with this statement is that it not only represents a complete misunderstanding of how vaccines work, but it is being Tweeted by a ’90s pop star who has no scientific or medical qualifications.
Firstly, DNA and RNA are different things. DNA is a long molecule containing unique genetic code – what we call genes – that are responsible for development, function, growth and reproduction of proteins in each cell of the body.
RNA is of a similar structure however it essentially tells the proteins how to behave. It does this in three ways, including acting as a messenger between DNA and proteins. Here it is called ‘messenger RNA’, known as ‘mRNA’.
Dr Rohn explains that those made by Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines that use a part of Covid-19’s RNA to tell our cells to produce antigens. The antigens are then recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.
RNA cannot physically change the coding of DNA, Dr Rohn confirms.
Instead, she thinks people are confusing vaccines with gene therapy, an experimental technique that can be used against cystic fibrosis and some cancers but – crucially – has nothing to do with vaccines, how they are developed or how they work.
MYTH: ‘You don’t need the vaccine if others have one’
Back to unqualified musicians on Twitter for such rumours, like Ian Brown, who tweeted: “So if you want a vax and you believe it works and you’ll be protected then you wont mind if i dont have one because you will already be protected. [sic]”
Firstly, the former Stone Roses singer has no scientific or medical qualifications.
Secondly, not everyone can be vaccinated, some have compromised immune systems and others are undergoing certain medical treatments and cannot safely take the vaccine. These people will be relying on the wider population to take the vaccine and therefore indirectly protect them.
Herd immunity, however, is typically only achieved when 70-90% of the population is vaccinated.
Dr Rohn says: “It’s quite a shocking thing to say: ‘I’m going to sit back and reap the benefits of vaccination without actually getting the vaccine myself.
“I think that’s completely selfish because not everyone can get vaccinated. There are people who are too vulnerable and they’re immunocompromised and they’re relying on everyone else to do the right thing.”
MYTH: ‘Vaccines contain tissue from aborted foetuses’
This rather horrifying myth is completely untrue. Dr Rohn explains: “You would never put human tissue into a vaccine because it might cause an immune reaction that you don’t want.”
Where the confusion lies, she believes, is with the fetal cells that were used in the early 1960s from legally and electively aborted fetuses for research purposes.
These cells have been reproduced over the years to provide a consistent genetic make-up for conducting vaccine research.
Dr Rohn says: “There are cell lines that we use in the lab all the time that are derived from stem cells.
“Some of them are 50 years old and they’re an essential part of the research arsenal. It’s not like we’re going out and aborting foetuses to do research on them.”
The mRNA vaccine is synthetic and made from a DNA template in a lab, such as the Moderna vaccine – a synthetic vaccine sequenced in a lab. The AstraZeneca vaccine, however, used the cell line from an aborted fetus to develop the vaccine.
Even the seriously anti-abortion Catholic Church said ‘one is morally free’ to use the vaccine if it has been developed using the cell line, despite its historical association with abortion. They add: “This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”
To be clear though – none of the Covid-19 vaccines contain cells from aborted fetuses.
MYTH: ‘Vaccines cause autism’
There is zero scientific evidence to back up this anti-vaccine and ableist conspiracy theory.
This myth is believed to be based upon a fraudulent paper from 1998 that has now been retracted due to clear evidence of falsification of data.
Simply put – vaccines absolutely, scientifically do not cause autism. Anti-vaxxers should also consider why they think so negatively of autism.
MYTH: ‘The vaccine isn’t safe because it’s been developed so quickly’
The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine smashed the previous record for vaccine development from four years to under one. ‘Understandably, there is concern’, Dr Rohn explains.
Adding: “Usually it takes 10 years and this time it’s taken 10 months, so of course people are going to wonder if any shortcuts have been taken.”
However, the speed at which the vaccine has been developed is simply due to the amount of money and effort put in – the UK alone spent £6 billion to develop and procure the vaccine.
Additionally, vaccine development did not start from scratch. Dr Rohn says: “There’s been an enormous amount of groundwork on these prototypes so we were quick off the mark from a research point of view.
“The actual trials are taking a long time and that’s where nothing is being compromised.
“No reputable regulatory body will approve this without a completed and successful series of clinical trials.”*
*This interview was done before any vaccine was rolled out in the UK.
On vaccine misinformation, a government spokesperson said: “Letting vaccine disinformation spread unchecked could cost British lives.”
If you’re having really weird dreams this lockdown here’s why
(Don’t worry, you’re not the only one)
If you’re finding yourself having super weird dreams and actually being able to remember them in the morning, don’t panic, you’re not alone.
Tonnes of people across the country have been reporting the exact same thing during lockdown. Luckily a scientist has given us a clever explanation that will calm down all our fears that self-isolation might be getting to us.
There are a lot of contributing factors that stem from being in lockdown that are changing our dream patterns. One of the biggest one is increased stress and anxiety levels due to the uncertainty of the world right now.
Many, in fact, most people are finding themselves with financial worries and pressures like never before.
Cabin fever is also a huge factor to our unconscious thinking patterns and a lot of people are having dreams of being stuck, whether that formulates as a room with no doors or a shipwreck you’re stuck on – it all comes down to a feeling of being stuck inside. Which is pretty self explanatory.
We’re all also spending more time than ever with the same few people which will be having an effect on your dreams.
Other reasoning comes down to the fact that our homes are physically warmer because we’re all in it, potentially with the heating on. When we’re asleep and warm we have more vivid dreams.
Some people’s dreams might not be that spectacular – finding themselves down the local having a frosty pint of their favourite beer (which does actually sound spectacular tbh) – and that’s completely fine too.
Life has become monotonous, what with ‘going to work’ including rolling out of bed and walking the 10 steps to the dining table. Basically we’re just missing normality and craving the things we would do in an average week.
There’s even a reason as to why we’re all remembering our dreams like they’re a blockbuster movie too.
As we’re all having a little lie-in in the morning, with some of us not even setting an alarm, we can move into that REM sleep.
While we’re in REM sleep our brains are more active, dreams get longer and more vivid. With our alarms not going off, we stay in this type of sleep for longer, dreams extend, get weirder and we can then remember them when we get up.
So whatever your dreams involve, you’re not crazy just isolated!! Keep dreaming kids!
Who remembers Manchester’s hugely popular Granada Studios Tour?
Ahh the memories…
It was Manchester’s answer to Universal Studios, but with the Coronation Street set…
After a successful decade-long run of providing fun for Manchester, the demise of the Granada Studio Tour began after visitor numbers dwindled – meaning the tour sadly shut up shop for one last time.
One of the biggest reasons as to why can be put down to poor businesses practises at ITV, which saw the company lose millions.
The main culprit was the Sky-like service called ‘ONDigital’, which launched in 1998 and was forced into administration just four short years later.
It was pretty much the exact same concept as Sky, only the exclusive shows were essentially rubbish and the whole thing flopped.
At this point the Granada Studios Tour was seen as a large and unnecessary expense, and unfortunately closed down.
The tour was the brainchild of Granada producer David Plowright, who proposed to create a ‘Hollywood-on-the-Irwell‘ – and that he did. Sort of, anyway.
The tour first opened its doors in 1988, expecting to welcome 250,000 in the first year, but in the initial eight months alone 600,000 people visited to take in the sights.
Arguably the most popular attraction was the Coronation Street set which in 2013 moved to MediaCity, built on an even bigger scale with the chance to go inside too!
In 2018 Victoria Street was added, which features a garden and memorial bench paying tribute to the Manchester Arena bombing 22 victims and Coronation Street super fan Martyn Hett.
The old Granada Studios Tour might not have been the bright lights of LA or Hollywood, but you don’t get much more Mancunian than that cobbled street!
What are your favourite memories of the tour?
From pet shops to sex shops: how Manchester’s Northern Quarter has transformed over the years
The best place in Manchester?
This quarter of the city centre has seen it all!
The Northern Quarter is Manchester’s Indie haven, where you’ll find everything you need and plenty of stuff you don’t need but definitely want. And the best bit is that it’s almost entirely independent!
In the early 1970s the area that we now know as the Northern Quarter was massively suffering with neglect, impacted greatly by the opening of the massive corporate shopping centre, the Arndale.
The NQ quickly lost all appeal and viability as the shopping destination it had been prior. The famous pet shops of Tib Street disappeared altogether – apart from just one surviving at the very top of the road that is still open today.
By the late ’70s the area was pretty much derelict and mostly residential thanks to the new housing estate near Smithfield Market. The old warehouses from the Industrial Revolution became the perfect occupancy for large, cheap storage for clothing and textile wholesalers.
Things stayed much the same for a few years until the ’80s saw a little spark ignite with the opening of Affleck’s palace. A one-stop-shop for all things boutique and independent, Affleck’s Palace became a destination with people flocking from all over to get involved at the new local market for artists.
Around this time creatives began to flood the area again and those large spaces became studios and practice rooms for the likes of musicians and inventors.
A few boozers worked through the night to keep those in the area from going thirsty and hungry with plenty of cheap ales at the likes of The Millstone, Koffee Pot and Mother Macs – as well as This & That providing a much needed Rice & Three.
Manchester City Council commissioned the regeneration of the NQ in 1993, and Urban Splash moved in and set to work on redeveloping the area, turning it into a residential neighbourhood. If people live here, businesses open – or so the theory goes.
It turns out the theory was correct! The ’90s was a big moment for the NQ, cheap rent tempted just about everybody and as people moved in so did the businesses.
The public started to champion independents again and the plan, overall, was a great success.
Not everyone is quite so positive about the progress that happened to the area though.
Gentrification can often be described as the killer of culture and soul of an area, and people who once lived there are priced out. The NQ in particular is now a ‘party hot spot’ where rent has increased by 40%, and more and more plots of land are being sold to big time investors to create luxury flats that will likely become Airbnb’s.
But it’s not all bad, the Northern Quarter is a haven for artwork, there are parrots on the walls, poets on the floors and ever-changing graffiti that even has entire tours dedicated to it.
And there are still independents to shop at, dine in, drink dry and dance on the tables of.
There is no denying that the NQ is still the place to be – Ancoats might have reached worldly heights but the NQ has the Castle, the Millstone, newbies like Federal, Another Heart to Feed and Feel Good Club, shops like Noma, Blue Rinse and plenty more that keep it the bustling spot all the cool kids hang out.
Even as more and more areas see regeneration, the NQ still comes through with that star quality that some areas will just never have.
You can follow NQmanchester for daily updates on going’s on in the area!