Most of the coronavirus vaccines are genetic potions of one kind or another, and so much time and money has gone into them, it seems a return on investment is now due. Genetic vaccines are part of a huge industry based on synthetic versions of natural biology, with many prepped and ready to go.

Tracing back the history of DNA vaccines for HIV and Ebola begins to shed some light on how the coronavirus vaccines came into being. This article (Part 1) is about DNA vaccines for Ebola, e.g. trials in Africa that used contact tracing, and where people felt like lab rats, vaccine ingredients and genetic contaminants. Part 2 will trace the endless failures of DNA vaccines for HIV over the last 30 years, and look at how HIV brought in the concept of testing for ‘cases of suspected infection’.

The Green Light for a Genetic Vaccine

On 12 November, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) greased the wheels for Merck’s genetic Ebola vaccine as part of “the fastest vaccine prequalification process ever conducted by WHO”.  It’s said that more than 303,000 people in the Congo were given the vaccine during trials.

This is a historic step ….” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Five years ago, we had no vaccine and no therapeutics for Ebola. With a prequalified vaccine and experimental therapeutics, Ebola is now preventable and treatable.”

In order to bring Merck’s vaccine, Ervebo, to market, the WHO worked with GAVI, the ‘vaccine alliance’, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA); two days before the WHO prequalification, the European Commission granted Merck conditional marketing authorization for the vaccine, following a recommendation from the EMA. African regulators “have indicated they will quickly license the vaccine following the WHO recommendation”. Ervebo was also approved by the FDA on 19 December, 2019.

Originally with the catchy name ‘rVSV-ZEBOV’, the vaccine uses the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) as a way to get the fake DNA version of Ebola inside the cells of the body. The VSV is recombinant (genetically engineered) and becomes a hybrid because it’s got some genetic code hidden inside it that says “Make Ebola proteins!” This is supposed to mimic a natural infection, and the body is supposed to understand the man-made code and react accordingly. The same method is being used by several other companies for all sorts of ‘viral infections’; most notably, the ronavax made by AstraZeneca and J&J, both of which use adenoviruses to carry the code for coronavirus proteins. However, unlike the viral vectors used for the ronavax, this one is replication competent, meaning it’s able to multiply inside the person who’s been vaccinated.

To get a taste of how freaky the genetic concoctions get, take a look at some of the other ‘medicines’ being touted by the EMA (all of which are being trialled in the DRC):

  • REGN-EB3, a co-formulated cocktail of three human monoclonal antibodies against the Ebola virus glycoprotein
  • mab114, a recombinant human IgG1 antibody against the Ebola virus glycoprotein
  • remdesivir, a prodrug of a modified adenine nucleoside analogue (called GS-441524)
  • ZMAPP, an equimolar mixture of three mouse/human chimeric IgG1, kappa mAbs.


The vaccine has to be stored in a freezer, and once thawed, “ERVEBO is a colorless to slightly brownish-yellow liquid with no particulates visible.” The vaccine virus is delivered in a solution “containing10 mM Tromethamine (Tris) and2.5 mg/mL rice-derived recombinant human serum albumin. Each 1 mL dose may contain residual amounts of host cell DNA (≤10  ng)  and benzonase (≤15ng). The vaccine may contain trace amounts of rice protein.”

It’s for people aged 18 years or more; they’ve no idea how long it’ll make you produce antibodies for, but it does come out of the body so can be spread around:

Vaccine virus RNA has been detected in blood, saliva, urine, and fluid from skin vesicles of vaccinated adults; transmission of vaccine virus is a theoretical possibility.”

Adverse reactions are said to include:

injection-site pain (70%), swelling (17%), and redness (12%). The  most  common  systemic  adverse  events  reported  following vaccination  with ERVEBO were  headache (37%), feverishness (34%), muscle pain (33%), fatigue (19%), joint pain (18%), nausea (8%), arthritis (5%), rash (4%) and abnormal sweating (3%).

There were also reports of chills, paraesthesia, anaphylaxis, serious pyrexia reaction, severe arthritis and severe arthralgia. ‘Study 5’ was a group of 24 people who developed arthritis, six of whom had “recurrent or prolonged joint symptoms lasting up to 2  years following vaccination, the longest follow-up period.” Two people in Study 5 had cutaneous vasculitis, and four of them had a rash, which seems to indicate shedding of the recombinant virus. A separate study of 697 people assessed their white blood cell counts and found up to 85% of them had decreases in lymphocytes, while 43% had decreases in neutrophils.

There is no guarantee it won’t cause problems with pregnancy and it may well be in breast milk, since it is replication competent. They don’t appear to have tested for this; in fact, no tests for genetic toxicity are required for genetic vaccines, which are all classed as ‘biologics’. Merck did a few tests on female rats, but other than that, “ERVEBO has not been evaluated for the potential to cause carcinogenicity, genotoxicity or impairment of  male fertility.”

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