Monday, April 13, 2020

Beware: Cure Worse Than Disease?

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Bill Gates told the Wall Street Journal last week that he and his wife will make billions of dollars available for manufacturing the most promising vaccines to combat coronavirus.

He says we've got to get the cure right early on---not waste time and money.

This reminded me of a conversation that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had with Rice University a few months ago telling them the most urgent problem is knowing who has been vaccinated---and who has not.

Please be informed.

Creating a cure for Chinese coronavirus.

The Wall Street Journal quotes Bill Gates: "Our early money can accelerate things"...vaccines "are clearly required" because of the far-reaching spread of the virus, and
"The only thing that really lets us go back to normal, and feel good about sitting in stadiums with lots of other people, is to create a vaccine and not just take care of our country but take that vaccine out to the global population."

I am aware that there are those within the Christian and conservative community that do not believe in vaccines for any reason.

In complete transparency, I don't share that view, but I certainly understand it. And I understand how medicine can be used to advance an ideology---or a movement. Education, science and a number of other disciplines are regularly used for indoctrination purposes.

I personally believe that God through His Son Jesus Christ, created all that exists---"All things were made by Him and without Him, nothing was made that was made" (John 1).

God allows us to discover His Truth, including in these various fields.

When I read the WSJ story, I remembered a recent report from Rice University which also involves Bill and Melinda Gates.

A new vaccine, and a new way of administering it.

The article in the December edition of Rice University Newspaper began with
"Keeping track of a child's shots could be so much easier with technology invented by a new Rice University professor and his colleagues."

The report says,
"Kevin McHugh, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice since this summer, and a team at his previous institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, report in a cover story in Science Translational Medicine on their new development of the quantum-dot tags that fluoresce with information after they're injected as part of a vaccination."

A pattern of 1.5-millimeter micro-needles dissolves under the skin, leaving the encapsulated quantum dots. Their pattern can be read to identify the vaccine that was administered.

The tags are incorporated in only some of the array of sugar-based micro-needles on a patch. When the needles dissolve in about two minutes, they deliver the vaccine and leave the pattern of tags just under the skin, where they become something like a bar-code tattoo.

Instead of ink, the highly specific medical record consists of copper-based quantum dots embedded in bio-compatible, micron-scale capsules. Their near-infrared dye is invisible, but the pattern they set can be read and interpreted by a customized smartphone.

So, what does this have to do with Bill and Melinda Gates?

McHugh says, "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came to us and said, 'Hey, we have a real problem---knowing who's been vaccinated'."

They said,
"We go on vaccination campaigns where people get into Hummers, drive to a rural village, set up a tent, and start immunizing people, but they don't always know who's been immunized before and what vaccines are still needed."

McHugh says parents often don't know their children's vaccination histories. "So our idea was to put the record on the person, this way, later on, people can scan over the area to see what vaccines have been administered and give only the ones still needed."

McHugh says the square-centimeter patches hold up to 16 tiny needles---"They don't go very deep, which makes them theoretically painless and a lot easier for kids. They're like putting on a bandage."

And he says,
"Because the 1.5-millimeter needles disintegrate in the skin, no bio-hazardous sharps remain for disposal. Testing in model skin in strong light showed the 4-nanometer dots should be readable for at least 5 years."

He also says he and his team are aware of the possible concern over ethics. He assures the public that he and his team work with a bioethicist to be sure patients' data remains protected. McHugh says,
"She says we're on solid ground as long as people can opt-out, like getting the patch with only the vaccine. Also, the patch with the quantum dots only contains information about the vaccine received, It doesn't tell you anything else about the person."

It doesn't, but it could tell you more if those administering it wanted it to.

Clearly, this breakthrough technology solves some problems.

But the possible adaptations of this new marking method is striking.

Is the cure worse than the disease?

McHugh plans to continue his work on this technology at Rice University. He says,
"There are so many aspects to this particular project that we need nanotechnologists, bacteriologists, chemists and computer scientists, so this is certainly something I'm thinking about for my lab here."

While this new technology solves some problems, it's the adaptations that are concerning.

They're striking.

In the biblical book of Revelation (ch. 13) we are introduced to "another beast" coming up out of the earth. We are told he "deceives those who dwell on the earth" by performing miracles...and he causes all "both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark" on their right hand or on their forehead.

Most modern translations use the word "on," however the King James Version rightly uses the word "in" to describe where the mark will be given "In" the hand, or "in" the forehead.

Is the Gates Foundation, Bill and Melinda or professor Kevin McHugh the person described in Revelation? Of course not.

But the technology being developed to help people, should give us pause.

The Prophet Isaiah (5:20) warned of those who would put "darkness for light and light for darkness."

As this or similar technologies become common, helping people, saving lives---becoming normal, how difficult would it be to include all medical records, personal ID, even a needle for commerce---buying and selling? Think of how much safer that would be. No more stolen credit cards, bank cards, or social security numbers.

Clearly, that would solve a lot of problems. Anyone who would oppose such an upgrade in safety and security would be marginalized, or even punished.

This is a time when we must be informed and vigilant. Discerning, and faithful.

Be Prayerful. Be Hopeful.