Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

from the desk of Meenakshi Prabhune

Hello Sci-Schmoozers,

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Holidays are unusual this year, to say the least. It sucks to be away from family and avoid those big get-togethers we yearn for all year but there is also a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for the efforts of frontline health care workers who have been tirelessly treating patients this year. The resilience that people have shown in these trying times is laudable; no matter how bad the situation, there are those few people around us who keep going and motivate you to keep going. Last, but not the least, I am grateful for the hard work that scientists put into research to develop vaccines in record time—exactly the positive news we needed to end the year.

The results of Phase 3 vaccine trials from Pfizer and Moderna (two separate vaccines) were published just a week apart from one another this month. Both reported more than 90% efficacy in patients, after looking at COVID-19 in placebo and vaccinated groups after the second dose.

Both are mRNA vaccines; a quick reminder on how they work. mRNA codes for specific protein in cells. The virus has about 25 proteins, and the researchers picked mRNA that codes for one of those proteins and inject it is as vaccine. Two points to remember for those concerned about safety of the vaccine: one viral protein is not enough to be infectious as it is not the full virus. Also, the mRNA is temporary; your cells will destroy it in a few weeks. But before that, it will alert your immune cells about the intruder and the resulting immune response is the basis of what will prepare you for future real infections.

Lastly, while all this is great news, please remember that vaccine being generally available is months away and so please practice social distancing and safety measures until then. Moving on to my event picks for next week:

Stay safe and curious,
Meenakshi Prabhune (a.k.a Minu)
Science Journalist and Writer

Editor’s Note: Eventbrite, one of the sites we monitor, has changed from a geographic focus to general topics.  That means that searches for Science events turn up things from all over the world.  As a result, we’ve added a few interesting (to us, anyway) talks to the calendar from far flung places, such as Scotland and Australia.  Some feature local speakers too!

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