Tuesday, March 23, 2021

COVID19 Vaccine: A Very Deep, Personal Meaning

A safe and effective vaccine has been developed to meet a public health threat, in months instead of a decade.  It is the amazing confluence of molecular biology, medicine, and and influx of money, all colliding to install community immunity to a highly transmissible and potentially harmful virus. 

I receive my first shot today, the Moderna mRNA vaccine. I'll get it today at 5:40 pm at the Publix grocery store on 91st Street.  

For most this event marks the end of a threat to health, the potential to maybe rejoin others and life returning to normal. 

But to me it means something more. It is another gorgeous application of a technology I have studied for almost a lifetime. 

I first learned of recombinant DNA technology in 1977.  I was 10.  The concept was always intriguing. It was amazing that we could potentially fix medical problems, correct genetic errors, enhance traits in plants.... simply my adjusting the basic instructions in the molecular blueprint.  


I get the shot in an hour and my sleeve has been rolled up all day. I have been waiting for this opportunity to protect my community, colleagues and family. 


For the next 44 years I'd study the molecular basis of life, and today teach these concepts to students in class and in the lab.  For six years I have hosted a popular weekly podcast on biotechnology.  I have taught these concepts in the public square, in front of angry protesting audiences, and in online forums, sometimes leading to responses of defamation, threats, and situations requiring police protection. 

If you don't believe I have paid a price for teaching science, just do a Google Images search of my name. 

Today I get to receive the gift of this amazing technology.  It is technology that I have fought and suffered for, and paid great prices personally and professionally to advance. 

My guess is that I'll drop a few tears when I get the jab, and not because it hurts, but because it heals. 

And I'll drop a few more when it can reach the most desperate and needy in the world in other forms, with medical care and food security.  We live in amazing times with beautiful technology, and maybe the silver lining of the pandemic is that new technology will gain acceptance into its proper place in improving the human condition.