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November 20th  2020. Updated January 2021

The rush for a vaccine for Covid-19 has sparked a frenzy of billion dollar investments into new vaccine consortiums, veteran pharmaceutical corporations and start ups. Drugs regulators have approved synthetic biology, gene editing and other untested biotechnologies in the new crop of vaccines to halt the spread of the virus. 


What is CEPI and COVAX?

bill gatesIn 2015, the former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates was talking about a global contagion, a virus that could spread by “getting on a plane or going to a market.” (Gates TED talk ) And, a market is precisely where the Chinese government said the Wuhan outbreak of Covid-19 originated. Gates described microbes, not missiles as the new enemy in what he describes as ‘germ games,’ and predicts ten million deaths from a pandemic.

In 2017, he called for funding to be re-directed into the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for research from which Bill Gates, as a key player in CEPI, would directly benefit. In January 2019, he told The Wall Street Journal that vaccines were his best investment yet, turning a smidge over $10 billion investment into three vaccine consortiums into a $200 billion profit, a return of 20-1.

In March 2020, the British government pledged £210 million to CEPI to specifically focus on a vaccine for the coronavirus Covid-19, making them the largest individual donors to the project. A whip round of the governments of Australia, Belgium and Canada brought the total  of donations to CEPI to US$760 million.

Now CEPI has collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance) to accelerate the development, production, and access of Covid-19 vaccines and tests under the banner of COVAX . By the end of 2021, COVAX aims to deliver two billion vaccine doses to protect healthcare workers and the 20% most vulnerable populations first. Participating countries will pay for a share of the doses and poorer countries can make discretionary voluntary donations to COVAX.

Monkey Virus Vaccine

The British Government has placed an order for 100 million doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in conjunction with Oxford University. The catchily titled simian adenovirus-vectored vaccine ChAdOx1ncoV-19 (Chimpanzee Adenovirus Oxford One) is made from a modified short lived upper respiratory tract virus prevalent in chimpanzees that can recombine with a number of mammalian cells and was authorised by the Genetically Modified Organisms Safety Committees. The trials suggest the vaccine is well tolerated by all age ranges especially if paracetamol is given in conjunction with the shot. The results of the study are here

AstraZeneca received up to $1.2 billion on the agreement with the US Government to make available at least 300 million doses of AZD1222 or ChAdOx1ncoV-19 pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration and  European Food Safety Authority. Further information about the Oxford Vaccine can be seen here

Warp Speed

The Oxford Vaccine research team led by the Jenner Institute received emergency funding from CEPI and the Chinese Academy of Medicine (CAMS) amongst others .

Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) received $456 million from the U.S. Government’s vaccine program Operation Warp Speed (OWS) and Janssen invested a further $500million into large scale phase 3 human trials of an adenovirus Ad26 vaccine they will distribute on a not for profit basis

Genetically Modified mRNA Vaccines

20200316-covid-19Of the 30 Covid-19 vaccine trials around the world a joint venture between drug veterans Pfizer Inc and the German company BioNTech was first in announcing the success of phase 3 trials of a modified vaccine called BNT162, claiming a 90% success rate. Pfizer/BioNTech  received $1.95 billion from Operation Warp Speed to make 100 million doses, boosting the personal fortune of BioNTech’s owner by £380m and doubling shares in the company.

The British Government has ordered 5 million doses of a modified vaccine made by a new US drugs company Moderna. Operation Warp Speed paid $1.5 billion for 100 million doses delivered to the US government by Moderna, now valued in the region of $2.48 billion. The company has also received funds from The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) headed by the outgoing President Trump’s pandemic advisor Dr Anthony Fauci, and is funded by Bill Gates. 

Moderna’s vaccine known as mRNA-1273 contains a synthetic sequence of chemical letters that cells read to produce the 1,273 amino acids making up the Covid-19 spike protein. To date there have been no mRNA vaccines approved for use in humans, although Messenger RNA (mRNA) was first used in the US in 2005 to speed up protein production in stem cell therapies for cancer patients. In the vaccine, the genetically modified mRNA is packed inside tiny fat droplets called nano-lipids which instruct human cells to make a non-replicating form of the Covid-19 spike protein which trigger an immune response in the body. When the body is re-exposed to Covid-19, the cells, in theory, have a memory of the virus and stop it from invading the body.

Both Pzfizer/BioNTech and Moderna fast tracked their vaccines in a matter of months rather than the usual several years it can take to develop a vaccine. Moderna reached phase 1 in March, just 63 days into its development, and by July was ready for final-stage trials. Moderna claim a 94.5% efficacy rate, however, the human trials have not been without problems. Phase 1 trials volunteers experienced mild reactions to the mRNA-1273 vaccine including urticaria rash, chills, fatigue and headaches, although not severe. But, in the high dose group, 20% experienced severe adverse events (AE). Detailed results of the trials are here:\  Ian Haydon, a robust male volunteer collapsed from an AE just 12 hours after receiving the high dose mRNA-1273 vaccine and reporting to various news channels that he felt fine. .

Another potential problem with Moderna’s modified mRNA vaccine is the lipid nano-particles (LNPs) used to carry the vaccine to the cells are coated with a synthetic, non-biodegradable polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG can contribute to unintended immune reactions, impact liver detoxification pathways and degrade the mRNA or the LNPs, any of which could lead to significant adverse events. Furthermore, it is thought that PEG can provoke neuropsychiatric symptoms including mood swings, rage, phobias and paranoia.  

London Vaccines

Human late stage trials are taking place in London of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Imperial College. Volunteers have been inoculated with COVAC1, a vaccine that contains modified parts of the self-amplifying RNA or saRNA of the Covid-19 spike protein and will later receive a challenge dose of coronavirus. The self-amplification process means the vaccine can be scaled up if it goes into mass-production. It was developed with £41 million from the British Government and will be distributed widely throughout the UK and low and middle-income countries by Biotechnology group VacEquity Global Health (VGH).

Another vaccine trial at Imperial College London is developing a spray that contains a drug-like molecule that interacts with cells in the nasal cavity to activate the body’s innate immune system.The research team are using a substance, called INNA-051, to activate the release of signalling proteins called cytokines, that along with other defence shields could stop the Covid-19 virus replicating inside cells.

China Vaccines

In an effort to boost public confidence in China, the Beijng based makers of SinoVac jabbed 90% of their workforce with their two shot vaccine, also vaccinating Mr Goa Fu, the head of the China’s Centre of Disease Control and Prevention. Late stage trials of SinoVac in Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil were underway, but latest reports from Brazil say the trials have been halted because of adverse events. The news has delighted President Bolaronoso, known for being skeptical about the corona virus and no fan of China

CEPI has donated $9million to a collaboration between Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology CoChinese and US company Inovio to develop Cellectra a handheld device that delivers fluid directly into human tissue using a brief electrical pulse to reversibly open small pores in the cell allowing the incorporation of genetically engineered DNA. In his TED talk Gates predicted a role for the Military in viral pandemics and the US Department of Defense (DoD) took him at his word by donating US$71 million to further develop Cellectra, preordering an undisclosed number of the devices .

China is developing at least four other vaccines with one ready to roll out by January 2021. And given that BioNTech has partnered with Fosun Pharmaceutical in Shanghai for China distribution, this is likely to be the BNT162 vaccine developed with Pfizer.  

How to Super Cool A Covid-19 Vaccine

Moderna has enlisted the help of Lonza’s production plants in Switzerland to manufacture 300 million doses of the mRNA vaccine But there is a problem with distribution. Both Moderna and Pfizer have produced vaccines that require supercooling: Pfizer’s to between minus 70C-80C and Moderna’s to minus 24C to remain effective.  

The Oxford vaccine does not require such extreme cooling, but nevertheless will need to be refrigerated at between 2C and 8C degrees. Normally, vaccines are required to be cool stored, but the logistics of transporting and constant cooling vaccines at such low temperatures over time if two shots or boosters are required will prove difficult, if not impossible. The United Parcel Service (UPS) has built two giant freezer depots in Louisville, Kentucky, and one in the Netherlands.

Usually, vaccines are transported around the world in the carrier hold of passenger planes, but this may not be possible if Covid-19 lockdown restrictions continue to ground flights. It is estimated by the International Air Transport Association that 8,000 Boeing 747 freighters would be required to transport one shot of the vaccine to the global population of  7.8 billion. But it would appear the most aeroplanes are not suitable for the plus celsius vaccines and even less suitable for those requiring supercooling. And, of course, multiple dose treatments add to the demand.

In the US deep freeze departments are being built specially to store the vaccines once they are produced However, not all hospitals and pharmacies will have such extreme cooling equipment in place. Freeze drying, dry ice and ultra-cool boxes are other methods of stabilising the vaccine

Right to Privacy - We’ve Got Your Number!

The US Department of Defence and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered with Profusa, a Silicon Valley company to produce Lumee, a two part bio-sensor implant that detects the continuous chemical signals within the human body and via Artificial Intelligence (AI) transmits and stores gathered data to smart phones, the Cloud, or other online platforms .

The first or ‘string’ part of the Lumee is approximately three to five millimetres long with a hairlike diameter of 500 microns that is injected just under the skin. The implant contains a hydrogel and enzymes with the ability to transmit a continuous stream of physiological data for up to two years. The second part of the Lumee is an electronic pod-shaped device attached to the skin’s surface. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) sensor picks up every chemical fluctuation from the implant including heart rate, blood sugar levels, the menstrual cycle, and emotional states. And, potentially the signal works in reverse too. Just as the hydrogel transmits data from your body, it could allow information to be received by your body, potentially affecting how you feel, think and behave. 

bioluminescence-jellyfish1200px-Firefly luciferin.svgThe enzyme in the gel allows a digital pattern to be read inside the body. Luciferaze is derived from an oxidised compound called luceferin which produces bioluminescence, a light source emitted by a number of organisms - think fireflies. It is probably best remembered for producing glow in the dark sheep, fish and monkeys engineered with DNA taken from green jelly fish Within this technology lies the possibility of assigning humans with a barcode, a number or identifying tag inside the body, prompting concerns about trans-humanism, or the potential to change who and what human beings are. Any suggestions that using this biotechnology in conjunction with a Covid-19 vaccination could produce genetically modified humans have been strenuously denied

The Eradication Game

In some cases gene editing has been taken to the extreme and Bill Gates appears to be willing to eradicate an entire insect species to achieve those ends A glance at Gates’s Gene Drive Research Technology to eradicate genetically modify mosquitos in Africa, demonstrates the concept of gene extinction is very much on his mind, despite the ecological or unintended consequences.

Robert Kennedy Jr the son of Senator Robert Kennedy and nephew of President John Kennedy has compiled a dossier in which he claims Bill Gates donates ten percent of the World Health Organisation (WHO) total funding. And, that Gates has used his influence to shift the WHO’s focus away from basic healthcare, food, clean water and sanitation and shifted the WHO's attention “toward eradicating disease through vaccination.” 

Kennedy Jr alleges that Gates was targeting poverty stricken regions around the globe, testing vaccines on poor girls in villages in India until he was thrown out of the country. Kennedy further claims that Gates’s success rates with his polio vaccine is negligible, saying that it likely causes more cases of polio than it has prevented. Moreover, he estimates that some 70% of emerging cases are directly linked with Gates’s vaccine, which has caused polio epidemics in places that have not seen the disease for years. The idea of vaccinating for vaccination sake may ring a few alarm bells, especially since Gates’s collaboration with the WHO and the COVAX Covid-19 global vaccination facility has proved so financially lucrative.

At the start of the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown, the government advisor on pandemics was Neil Ferguson, also the acting director of the Vaccine Impact Modelling Consortium (VIMC) at Imperial College, London. The VIMC is an offshoot of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology,and  received US$185 million in donations up until 2018 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2001, Ferguson’s initiatives on the Foot and Mouth disease epidemic led to the slaughter of around twelve million animals piled up and burnt on pyres, devastating food and farming communities. In 2002, Ferguson’s predictions for mad cow disease or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) were grossly overestimated, as was his pronouncement on bird flu (HN51). In May 2020, Ferguson resigned when he was caught breaking his own lockdown rules.

Lessons From History

With the UK’s government’s history of stockpiling unused vaccines for Foot and Mouth, Hepatitis A and B, and spending £473 million on Tamiflu to treat the H5NI bird flu virus, the outcome of investing in millions of doses of the Covid-19 vaccines remains to be seen. So too is the response of the general public, known to be wary of trusting engineered food crops, to a fast tracked vaccine containing pieces of a modified virus.

Since the first lockdown in April 2020, social disruption has resulted on an unprecedented scale with lives, business and incomes lost. Young people have missed parts of their education and families kept apart from vulnerable relatives. This trend has continued with the second, and now the third national lockdown in January 2021. History tells us the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic got worse before it got better with three peaks resulting in a total of 50 million deaths worldwide. And, the disease burnt itself out after two years of social distancing, face masks and vaccinations, giving some hope to the current situation.