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Archdiocese’s Social Justice Commission engages Covid-19 conversations

For the parents hesitant to take the Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Michele Monteil, asks them to consider their children “dying a different kind of death” not being able to grow up normally during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While older persons are responding to taking the vaccine, hesitancy is being seen in the 20 to 40 age group, which comprises many parents. Dr Monteil, who assists her grandchildren with their daily online classes commented on the impact of present conditions on children.

“That is not normal, it is not good for them. They are in front of a screen for too many hours. They are not interacting socially with children; they are not out there playing with friends; they are unable to run and be free as you were.” She asked: “Is this the future you want for your child?”. If children are to return to normalcy for the September academic term, parents should take the opportunity to get vaccinated. Dr Monteil said, “You as a parent by being vaccinated you protect them; you protect their teachers in school; you protect everybody else as well.”

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Dr Monteil is an immunologist and academic with extensive international and local experience. She served as Professor and Senior Clinical Lecturer in Immunology, and Head of the Department of Para-Clinical Sciences at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, St Augustine.

Dr Monteil was the featured speaker ‘COVID-19 Conversation’ hosted by the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CCSJ) on Facebook live Wednesday, May 26.

The dialogue with Programme Coordinator for the CCSJ Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees, Darrion Narine covered a range of issues including the efficacy of vaccines available, whether the vaccines interfere with DNA, caused infertility, contain a microchip. Viewers also sent questions.

Dr Monteil recalled the time when polio caused death and muscle atrophy, and parents and children took a vaccine as prevention. Polio death and symptoms are not prevalent today because of that decision. She advised today’s parents: “You are now being asked to step up to the plate and do the same thing.” She urged persons 20-40 years with comorbidities “please get vaccinated”.

Covid-19 vaccine and infertility

Responding to the question of Covid vaccines causing infertility, Dr Monteil brought up vaccine trials in which females involved got pregnant after taking the vaccine and their pregnancy went to full term. There were frontline doctors who got vaccinated and subsequently got pregnant.

“When they delivered, there’s been absolutely nothing wrong with the placenta…there was no abnormal effect on those and the infants seemed to be perfectly normal”. The vaccinated mothers would have also passed protective antibodies to their infants through the placenta and breast milk.

On the other side, though uncommon, Covid has been found to cause testicular swelling in males. Dr Monteil said, “There have been concerns whether acute Covid infection could potentially lead to infertility down the line, because it’s actually affecting the testes”. Patients who have died of Covid were found to have changes in their testes.

The vaccine contains mRNA that can alter DNA.

Dr Monteil said the SARS-CoV-2 was an mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) virus. Describing how it uses mRNA to replicate she said, “…so it carries mRNA and when it gets into your cell, it utilises the protein-making mechanisms within your cells to use the messenger RNA that it has delivered and it used your mechanism within your cell …to make many copies of proteins which will give rise to babies.” She said the spikes on the coronavirus are the spike proteins which are used by the virus to bind to the surface of the cell and gain entry. The antibodies generated through vaccination prevented this process and halt the virus from getting in.

The mRNA delivered in the vaccine never goes into the cell nucleus, where genetic material is stored. “mRNA vaccines do not change your genetic makeup. They are utilising the mRNA of the virus for the spike protein only, so you can’t even make a new virus.” It does stimulate a response in the immune system in the form of antibodies. The mRNA in the vaccine she later said, was destroyed in 24 hours. She noted that the vaccines being used in TT do not use mRNA.

Dr Monteil said there is no microchip in the vaccine. The needle used for the vaccine was very thin so the chip would have to be “like the width of a hair to come into the needle; it makes no sense. It is not true”.

As an immunologist she said she is pro-vaccine. She made the case that in the populations with a high level of vaccination certain diseases were not seen. “It is important for people to realise these diseases have not gone away. If you drop immunisation against measles now, we will see measles in our children”.

Dr Monteil said the Sinopharm vaccine was an “old-school vaccine” using the same technology as for the polio vaccine which infants received. The vaccine used an inactivated virus to stimulate the immune system to stop Covid from multiplying.

Which vaccine to take? “The one that you can get…all the vaccines train your immune system…get your immune system to make the appropriate preparatory elements to fight the virus, should you get it,” Dr Monteil said.

On another question about a healthy diet/lifestyle to build immune system and prevent contracting COVID, she responded, that it does help give the body the best opportunity to fight disease but does not prevent infection. Dr Monteil said that some persons had a genetic disposition to severe Covid.