Thursday, August 24, 2017 by Tracey Watson
It’s been a while since we had a Zika-hysteria fueling headline, but that does not mean that the-powers-that-be have recognized its harmlessness. Scientists have been hard at work to develop a vaccine, and researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) have announced the discovery of a planted-based vaccine which they claim is “more potent, safer and cheaper to produce than any other efforts to date.”
While Science Daily is reporting that “the worldwide Zika threat first emerged in 2015,” the truth is that Zika has been around for decades, and is the mildest of all the mosquito-borne illnesses. SD also alleges that as Zika spread last year, “it struck great fear in pregnant women, as babies born with severe brain birth defects quickly overburdened hospitals and public health care systems.” This is simply not true. Women all over the world were on high alert, taking desperate measures to avoid falling pregnant, with some women even aborting their babies. And yet, as time passed, the prophesied pandemic of babies born with the birth defect microcephaly – an unusually small head, causing permanent brain damage – simply never came true. (Related: The truth about Zika – It’s a grand medical hoax.)
When three-quarters of the population of the island of Yap in the Western Pacific was infected with Zika in 2007, not a single case of microcephaly was reported.
Nonetheless, the media and government agencies have continued to fuel the Zika hype, and Congress announced in 2016 that it would approve a $1.1 billion spending bill to fund a variety of programs aimed at vanquishing Zika once and for all. This, of course, included the development of a vaccine.
While other vaccines are also being produced, including one made from DNA and another from an inactivated form of the virus, these carry serious side effects and can even risk infecting recipients with a live version of the disease if the vaccine production protocol is not strictly adhered to. (Related: Stay in the loop at Outbreak.news)
The ASU research team, led by Biodesign Institute scientist Qiang “Shawn” Chen, claims that the vaccine they’ve developed is “safer” (i.e. still carries risks) than any of these other alternatives.
Chen is a viral expert who focuses on the development of plant-based therapeutics and vaccines.
He explains the development of the vaccine as follows:
“All flaviviruses have the envelope protein on the outside part of the virus. It has three domains. The domain III has a unique stretch of DNA for the Zika virus, and we exploited this to generate a robust and protective immune response that is unique for Zika.
“When you make the full native envelope protein as the basis for a vaccine, it will induce antibodies against DI, DII and the DIII domains of the protein. Those who have been prior exposed to DI and DII of other members of the Zika virus family may be prone to developing very bad symptoms, or in some cases, fatalities for dengue. … In our approach, we make what we call a pseudovirus. It’s a fake virus. The pseudovirus displays only the DIII part of the envelope protein on the surface. This is at least as potent as previous vaccine versions. We did a test to make sure that the vaccine produces a potent protective immune response, but also, that it does not produce antibodies that may be cross reactive for dengue, West Nile, yellow fever or others.”
Whether or not this vaccine is, indeed, “safer” than those being designed by other research teams in the race to get a vaccine approved, the fact remains that it does still carry risks, and one has to wonder what the point is of being vaccinated against an essentially harmless virus in the first place.