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I have great news about the vaccine: after a couple of hours reading Twitter, I am pleased to announce that 1) I learned what mRNA is and 2) I am now an expert on it and will be sharing my expertise in the replies to every vaccine-related tweet I see. I will also be sharing my expertise, randomly, in response to tweets from the account for the CBS television show Blue Bloods. “It’s an mRNA vaccine,” I tweet directly to Blue Bloods star Tom Selleck, completely absent of context. I follow it up with “an mRNA vaccine doesn’t actually contain the virus. It’s kind of like when you google copycat recipes for that really good Cheesecake Factory bread; you don’t get the actual recipe but you have the tools to make it. Or in this case, un-make it. Is that helpful information, Tom?” Point of fact, that is not helpful information as presented but I am undeterred in my quest as I am, quite recently, an expert on mRNA.
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As the Pfizer vaccine begins distribution across the U.S., everybody is suddenly talking mRNA, which stands for Maya Rudolph Nucleic Acid. Virologists, like myself as of this morning, are excited about the development of an mRNA vaccine because, unlike the vaccine for the flu, mRNA vaccines don’t use the virus itself and are faster to make, which may aid in building public trust and decimation. This is information that I did not know literally 12 hours ago but now I do and as a result I’m available to speak on cable news as an informed commentator.
Meanwhile, the Moderna vaccine is working its way through the final stages of approval and I am available to talk about that on television as well. I am also available to talk about how the Moderna headquarters in Massachusetts looks like a mid-range department store in a suburban mall where your parents insisted you do Back to School shopping every year and how that will effect the efficacy of the vaccine.
Yes, I am available to lecture on the topic “The Moderna headquarters looks like someplace that is Aunti Anne’s-adjacent which makes me feel much more comfortable about it” at any time. Meanwhile, the Pfizer headquarters in New York looks like a building where a Nicole Kidman character would go to hire an expensive divorce attorney and it’s my expert opinion that that needs to be studied more.
This is a year when we’ve had to instantly become experts on all manner of things from who the Clerk of Maricopa County is, to some but not all of the contents of the book White Fragility, to the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, to the circulation pattern of air particles on a direct flight from Newark to Minneapolis with no working wifi. It’s been quite a year for frantically skimming a Wikipedia article while in an argument with a bot. But isn’t that the American way? Of course, our collective need for microwave-ready expertise has been exacerbated by the fact that much of the knowledge we gained this year was necessary to save the country or even the world. Let me tell you, it has been exhausting being the Atlas holding up the globe with a tweet that reads “here’s what’s suspicious about Kelly Loeffler’s stock holdings: (thread 1/52)”. But someone has to do it. And, yes, that someone should probably be a person who actually knows what they are talking about but also I am available.
Now, of course, every armchair expert and chatty Uber driver turns their attention to the vaccine. My doctor cannot yet tell me when I will receive the vaccine but a friend from middle school just DM’d me with an exact date and time that they’ve figured out using the Excel spreadsheet Kelly Rowland texts Nelly with at minute 3:15 in the video for “Dilemma” and if that’s not a miracle of modern science, I don’t know what is.
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Has it been an easy path to becoming an expert on mRNA in the last couple of minutes? I’ll let you in on a secret: it has not. First of all, I misread it as MDNA, a drug more commonly known by its street name “Molly.” I was shocked that the solution to our pandemic had been waiting for us in the bathroom at Limelight this whole time. That was a whole day of expertise wasted. When I finally got my acronyms in order, I had to remember what I learned about DNA in high school and then figure out how that information would help me understand RNA. That was a journey, particularly since all of my high school science notes just had the words “Joey from Blossom” written inside hearts on every page. “What do you know about double helixes???” I tweeted at Joey Lawrence. “Have you heard of Rosalind Franklin?” But he did not respond.
From what I can tell from this article I am retweeting without reading, DNA and RNA are like cousins who are really close. Like, their moms are sisters and also best friends. They take a trip together every year and they’re skipping presents this holiday season in favor of writing each other letters. Is any of this helping you at all? I’m sure it is. But I will not rest until my expertise reaches everyone. It’s a hard job but someone has to do it and while no one asked that that someone be me, I have a clear schedule and I am present. Once again, the fate of humanity depends on me and on Maya Rudolph Nucleic Acid.
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