The vaccines secretly in development

We all know about the coronavirus jabs, but you may not be aware of these innoculations currently in development for conditions disproportionally prevalent in Jewish communities

December 17, 2020 10:55

News that the UK is the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against Covid-19 and that roll-out has already begun in the first priority group has offered a glimmer of hope in these dark times. If we’re lucky, perhaps by the time Pesach rolls round again at the end of March, we might once again be able to sit down to Seder night dinner with our families, knowing that our homes are free not just of chametz but of the coronavirus too (traces of the latter may not be flicked away with a feather apparently).

In normal circumstances, a vaccine can take ten years or more to work through all the stages from initial research and development, via extensive clinical trials to manufacture and implementation. The fact that the three front-runners — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca — have managed to hasten this process to under a year is very encouraging. What you may be less aware of are some less well-advertised vaccines currently in development to guard against conditions disproportionally prevalent in Jewish communities. Our investigative team has gone deep undercover to find out more…

Disaffected Offspring Syndrome

This syndrome is most commonly seen in teenagers post-bar/batmitzvah when ‘excessive’ exposure to the discipline of study plus the additional pressure of learning to leyn can create an adverse reaction, sometimes extreme.

Symptoms: Use of distinctive phrases may include: ‘I’m not going to shul – you can’t make me go.’ ‘It’s boring — why can’t I keep my earphones in?’ and, in more severe cases: ‘I didn’t ask to be Jewish’.

Side-effects: Headaches, stomach-aches, nausea on Friday night/Saturday morning. Sudden compulsion to eat ham sandwiches. Desire to date goyim as ‘Jewish girls/boys are all the same.’

Treatment: Studies have shown that arguing or sanctions are almost 100 per cent ineffective with this syndrome, so saying, ‘It’s your heritage’ or ‘Your great-grandfather didn’t escape the Nazis just to have you say you can’t be bothered to go to shul, you know’ are unlikely to be of much use.

Vaccine update: This is still in the very early stages so has not yet reached clinical trials. It is hoped that, once developed and approved, it will be administered during the bar/batmitzvah service just after the rabbinical blessing.

Misplaced meshuggeh-frummery

This may be seen in some households where one member is conspicuously more observant than the others, especially regarding matters of food, shul attendance, and adherence to exact timings in relation to Shabbat etc.

Symptoms: Obsessing over the niceties of religious observance. Characteristic expressions: ‘Are you sure this meat is glatt kosher?’ ‘Did you take my new jacket to have it checked for shatnetz?’

Side-effects: Most unusually, side-effects are typically seen in the asymptomatic members of the household rather than in the carrier. Common: resentment, tension, anger. Less common: A desire to shout, ‘Get a grip — Hashem couldn’t care less if we light the candles two minutes late. In biblical times, no-one had a bloody watch!’

Treatment: Simple home-based remedies include: inducing asymptomatic household members to mimic identical symptoms to alleviate side-effects or sending the chief carrier on a nice trip to Israel and ‘forgetting’ to buy them a return ticket.

Vaccine update: There is currently no realistic prospect of an effective vaccine despite extensive research.

Bend it like Bernstein

This condition is so widely prevalent that many people regard it as completely normal. Usually, it manifests itself in the ability to practise two or more entirely conflicting things at the same time.

Named after Adam Bernstein, the first man to insist on walking to synagogue on a Saturday morning then driving to a football match in the afternoon while justifying to himself that it was perfectly ok because: a) Spurs were playing so attendance was mandatory and b) everyone knows that God must have a long schluf on Saturday afternoon after the working week so almost certainly wouldn’t notice.

Symptoms: In mild cases, it may appear as a small but distinctive glitch in everyday proceedings, such as taking milk (rather than lemon or non-dairy creamer) in tea after a meat meal but disdaining the addition of cream to a fruit salad because that would make it a ‘milky pudding’. In its advanced stages, levels of inconsistency can reach almost unbelievable heights, leading to bouts of behaviour such as: always eating kosher meat at home but spaghetti carbonara as soon as out at an Italian restaurant, having a Christmas tree but putting a Magen David on the top rather than an angel, fasting for Yom Kippur but being so hungry on the way home from shul that you have to stop off for a slice of pepperoni pizza rather than waiting for tea and honey cake.

Side effects: Confusion, especially during visits from more observant relatives when the eclectic ‘rules’ of the household suddenly need to move up a gear. Inability to explain one’s behaviour to non-Jews.

Treatment: The inconsistences resulting from Bend it like Bernstein syndrome are multiple and complex. The current approach is usually to ignore them and accommodate them as studies show this is actually the least stressful option.

Vaccine update: Most sufferers are entirely at ease with the condition, and experience no unpleasant reactions, so vaccine development has currently been halted.

Claire Calman’s virus-free novel, ‘Growing Up for Beginners’, is available now.

December 17, 2020 10:55

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive