A winning argument

How a disagreement with my husband led to an EQUUS story about how equine research a decade ago helped pave the way for today's new mRNA CoVID-19 vaccine.

It started as I suspect many spousal disagreements do, with an innocent comment over breakfast. My husband, Matt, was telling me about a new article he had just read about the Pfizer CoVID-19 vaccine, which was then on the cusp of approval.

“Have you read about it? It’s interesting. Totally new,” he said. “They take part of the DNA from the virus and make the vaccine from that.”

“That’s not new,” I replied. “I wrote about that years ago.” Matt did not hesitate in his rebuttal: “I’m pretty sure it’s totally new.”

I should say at this point that my husband is not the type to talk about something as if he knows about it when he doesn’t. He’s an old-school newspaper reporter who likes to learn and makes sure facts are correct before he shares them. He’s also pretty smart. Very smart, even. He was on Jeopardy, for crying out loud. All of this should have suggested to me that maybe the vaccine was, in fact, totally new. But we have been married a long time and I like to be the smart one sometimes, so I persisted.

“I remember writing about these vaccines more than a decade ago,” I told him. “They’ve used them for horses. I can’t remember the disease right now, but I’m sure I wrote about them. They aren’t new.”

He told me if that was the case I needed to do a huge story on it for the next issue of EQUUS. I don’t remember exactly how I reacted, but I probably muttered something about looking into it and we moved on with the day.

That afternoon my mind wandered back to the conversation and I started looking through the EQUUS archives. A-ha! There it was: I’d written about a DNA vaccine for equine West Nile Virus that was groundbreaking at the time, back in 2005. But the CoVID-19 vaccine was an mRNA vaccine. Was that the same type of vaccine? If not, what was the difference?

I spent some time reading up on vaccine technology, but realized that this was a question for the experts. So I turned to the best resource an EQUUS editor has at her disposal: Our contact list of smart, friendly and helpful veterinarians and researchers from across the country and around the world. I emailed David Horohov, PhD, director of the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky, our longtime go-to authority on questions about equine immunology.

I posed the question to him, leaving out that I was partially looking to settle an argument with my husband: Was the new CoVID-19 vaccine the same type as the WNV vaccine developed years ago? Had horses actually be the very first species to receive this type of vaccine?

Within an hour, I had a reply from Dr. Horohov. It was concise, understandable and settled the matter: Matt was right. The Pfizer CoVID-19 vaccine is the first ever mRNA vaccine given to any species. But, for the record, I was not entirely wrong. I had written about DNA vaccines developed for horses more than a decade ago. The mRNA CoVID-19 vaccine is the latest step in the progression of that line of vaccine research and development.

The relationship between the WNV vaccine and the CoVID-19 vaccine was interesting and newsworthy enough to warrant a story, which I wrote up that morning and that you can read by clicking here. Congratulatory messages can be relayed to my husband via Twitter. 




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