Modified vaccine

Dahlan Iskan former Minister of State-Owned Enterprises

IO – I definitely will choose Sinovac’s vaccine over Pfizer’s, based on my own logic. Certainly, I am no expert, especially concerning pharmaceuticals, including vaccines. However, the global public is aware that the Sinovac vaccine originates from a weakened COVID virus, while the Pfizer vaccine originates from gene modification. 

Of course, I am not anti-genetic modification. If the only existing vaccine were to originate from genetic modification, I would not hesitate to take it. What matters is that the pandemic must end sooner, so that there will be as few victims as possible. Let’s not repeat what happened with the 1918 pandemic that ate up a third of the world’s population: the Spanish Flu. Imagine if a third of the population dies today – that means 100 million Indonesian citizens will pass away! 

True, maybe this is how the Universe returns the balance of Life. However, science will always be able to handle the issue. 

Or it should. 

For example, in the early 1900’s, experts in England forecasted that humans will perish due to severe lack of food based on the statistics of global population growth compared to global food growth. However, a German expert then discovered how to split up Nitrogen atoms. This was how we discovered chemical fertilizers: We literally feed our plants more air. This is what we use until now – the magic powder that brings riches to the magicians in fertilizer factories – and incidentally keeps our farmers poor. Accursed reality, if you may, but it does help us produce food beyond what we need – all that matters is whether not we have the money to buy it! 

Despite the advent of electronic books and paperless correspondence, we still need paper for various needs. Now, people have discovered a way to make paper without using wood fiber. Last week, I read an online publication that China has discovered a way to make paper with rock. They grind stones into fine powder, and then mix it with various additives before they finally get proper, smooth, white paper. 

We continue to make discoveries that help our lives, especially in agriculture. We can even start “planting” bulbs such as sweet potatoes by hanging them in the air, like what they tested in Henan, China. We also continue to perform plant modification at a genetic level. People have successfully produced better, more productive soybeans, cotton, etc. An infamous example is DMO soybean from America. They use it for livestock fodder, while we import it, alas, to make tempe. Each kilogram of this soybean produces more tempe than local beans, because the beans are bigger in size. They are not a favorite of tofu factories, as the beans do not generate much juice for use in tofu production. I myself eat the tempe produced by this modified soybean. However, if I have the choice, I prefer to eat tempe from local soybeans. It’s savorier and more flavorful, and certainly does not undergo genetic modification! 

My attitude towards the vaccine is the same as my attitude towards the tempe dish served on my table: If there is tempe made of unmodified soybean, I prefer to eat that. If the only tempe available is madout of modified soybeans, I will eat it anyway. As long as I get me some tempe… 

Similarly, one of the reasons why Western countries refuse COVID vaccination is genetic modification. There are many people who are anti- genetic modification in plants, let alone in humans! 

Even without genetic modification, people will refuse vaccination. Take it easy – it does not mean that our people are backwards. Many people in the United States, England, and other advanced countries have also stated they intend to refuse it. 

Refusal of vaccination has occurred over the past 100 years. For example, a great riot occurred in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1904 because of pro and contra arguments about smallpox vaccination. The Brazilian government nearly fell during the commotion. One of the great disputes in the issue was the claim that smallpox vaccination permanently scars the skin. I still have that vaccination scar on my arm at this advanced age, even though I had my vaccination decades ago. 

Even though the vaccination is usually administered in the upper arms, which is generally covered by sleeves, Brazilians like to wear sleeveless clothes, go with bared shoulders, and even go bare-chested; imagine such a scar. 

Naturally, COVID vaccination will not mar one’s physical beauty like the smallpox vaccination of the past. However, vaccines from a weakened virus are still more attractive to me. They have a long history of usage for so many plagues throughout the ages.