Views from the third world. Earth.

mRNA Vaccines Belong To The World

No one is safe until mRNA factories are everywhere

Illustration of an mRNA vaccine by David S. Goodsell, RCSB Protein Data Bank

The 1918 flu led to the discovery of the importance of DNA. COVID-19 has lead to the discovery of the power of mRNA. This technology — enabling us to write code and 3D print it inside the body — is the future, and we must step into this future together to survive.

mRNA needs to become the Pitbull of technology. Mr. Worldwide. Brazil, Senegal, India, South Korea. There need to be factories in every time zone, churning out COVID-19 vaccines all the time. These factories can be rapidly repurposed for new variants, or entirely new diseases. That’s how powerful mRNA is.

It is also, surprisingly, cheap. According to a study I’ll get into, the basic setup cost can be as low as $20 million (raw materials are much more). One facility can churn out a billion vaccines a year at $1 a dose. It is in fact easier to scale up mRNA vaccine production than conventional facilities, and faster too. Everything is easier except the politics, which is devilishly hard.

Western nations are putting profits before people, and even their own public’s health. As the WHO says, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Western leaders, however, are vaccinated and corrupt, so they don’t care. We have to make them. Thankfully people like former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden are speaking up. You need to speak up too.

Don’t just get your mRNA vaccine and forget about the world. Especially if you’re American taking Moderna, you paid for that vaccine. Your tax dollars developed it. My health is your health, and no one is safe until everyone is safe. We either adapt faster than the virus, or it adapts faster than us. mRNA adapts our bodies, but it’s going to take some serious politics to adapt our minds. So speak up. mRNA belongs to the world.

mRNA technology is not whites only

Many western pundits have said that mRNA is too complex for dumb darkies. Supply chains, machines, you’d never understand. This is nonsense. The technology is actually simpler than normal vaccines. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s Dr. Frieden:

mRNA vaccine production processes require smaller manufacturing facilities than conventional vaccine production, and these facilities can be built in less than half the time and with far lower capital costs…
No other vaccine platform may offer the flexibility and relatively low barrier to entry of mRNA technology.

What we have today is actually an investment opportunity, to leapfrog in the 21st century of medical technology and prepare for what will undoubtably be a century of shit. According to the study Dr. Friedman links:

Emerging rapid‐response vaccine platform technologies, especially RNA platforms, offer a high productivity estimated at over 1 billion doses per year with a small manufacturing footprint and low capital cost facilities. (Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing)

Dr. Friedman estimates the the US government could kickstart technology transfer with just $500 million (basically a rounding error on all their money printing these days). The problem isn’t money. It’s just political will. We’ll get to that.

What Is mRNA?

Firstly, though, what the fuck are we talking about? What is mRNA? The short answer is that it’s just the code that runs the 3D printers inside your body. DNA turns into mRNA (the ‘m’ stands for messenger) and that ‘message’ tells your cells to ‘print’ proteins.

This is literally what an mRNA vaccine does, in code form:

printf("COVID's spike protein");

Then the cell 3D prints COVID’s spike protein, your immune system is like “what the fuck is this?” and it learns to kill it. Then when COVID really comes around your body is like “this motherfucker again?” and kills it again. Your immune system sounds like Samuel L. Jackson.

On a technical level, this is amazing, because we’re writing machine code, the machinery being our very cells. The Moderna vaccine was ‘written’ just two days after China sequenced the genome (building on decades of public research). It took me longer to write a fucking blog post. Just one year later, this code is 3D printing in millions of human beings. This is nothing short of amazing. It’s also wholly inadequate.

To adapt faster than ever-mutating COVID-19, these shots need to be in billions of arms, everywhere COVID has been, and they need to be there fast. Given how much we have messed up the Earth, these needs to be a ready resource for the future. Not from a few factories, from many. Not just for rich people, for all people. Not somewhere, everywhere.

As J-Lo told y’all in 2011:

Brazil, Morocco, London to Ibiza
Straight to LA, New York, Vegas to Africa

How is mRNA manufactured?

Science writers like Derek Lowe and techbros like Jonas Neubert have said that the supply chains are complicated, and they are. Any supply chain is complicated. I’m not sure what the insight is here.

Actual scientists and engineers have said that mRNA production is simpler than normal vaccine production. Zoltán Kis, Cleo Kontoravdi, Antu K. Dey, Robin Shattock, and Nilay Shah go over this in the peer-reviewed Journal of Advanced Manufacturing and Processing in great detail. I’ll reproduce a bit at length here:

To address pandemics, such as the Covid‐19, several billion doses of vaccines are needed within months. Emerging outbreak‐response platform technologies, especially the RNA platform, appear capable of addressing this extremely challenging task, due to their high productivity at low manufacturing footprint and its ability to” release” millions of doses through rapid quality control testing. 
Specifically, a facility with a single 5 L bioreactor working volume can be sufficient to produce an estimated 1 billion vaccine doses per year at a drug product cost of below 1 USD/dose. This further increases the possibility of distributed manufacturing and thus contributing to vaccine supply sustainability. 
Given that RNA vaccine production processes are two to three orders of magnitude smaller than conventional vaccine production processes, they can be built in less than half the time with 1/20 to 1/35 of the upfront capital costs compared to conventional vaccine production processes. Inclusion of single‐use technologies in RNA vaccine manufacturing can further accelerate this timeline. (Journal Of Advanced Making Stuff)

I’d recommend reading the whole paper as to exactly how mRNA vaccines are made, but the point is that they can be made (they literally didn’t exist just one year ago). In fact, they can be made better, faster, and cheaper than traditional vaccines. The problem isn’t supply chains, it’s supply-side economics. The problem isn’t technical, it’s political.

mRNA can make medicine for many things, but there is no cure for greed.

What is wrong with people?

Right now the US could just decided to transfer mRNA technology across the world. They own it. US taxpayers funded the Moderna vaccine. Friedman lays out the case quite clearly:

Moderna is in a unique position, as their technology was developed by the National Institutes of Health and they accepted advanced development dollars from Operation Warp Speed. As a smaller and newer company, Moderna may be more willing to explore new models of collaboration. If they and other manufacturers adopt this approach, it would benefit the world and their reputations.
If carrots don’t work, the U.S. government has a stick with the Bayh-Dole Act. (Politico)

After telling the world to drink bleach, the US could actually help for once. They just won’t.

As US taxpayers you can’t just be content with this. Even if you get vaccinated, the virus will mutate and come fuck you up again. Some other virus will come. Unless you stop your elites from screwing us and everyone else, we’re all screwed. We either fight this pandemic globally or lose locally. That’s all it is.

Unless there is a huge amount of people power applied to this cause, monied power won’t budge. They’re all vaccinated, they don’t give a fuck. Do I have high hopes for this? No. America has consistently made the worst decision at every stage of this pandemic. But we have to try.

We need more voices like Friedman’s and, inshallah, saying that this technology developed by the people belongs to the people. That the decades of public research leading to this breakthrough will not be in vain, that it will be devoted to the public good.

So do not just take your mRNA vaccine and go home. mRNA technology does not just belong to you, and it certainly does not belong to a corporation that you funded. mRNA vaccines belong to the world.

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