Dearest Patients & Friends,
I hope this note finds you well, and staying somewhat sane in these continuously shifting times.
Since the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccines, I have been inundated with inquiries regarding the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, and I wanted to answer a few questions that seem to be of the highest concern for you as my patients and friends.
I will go into detail on a few key points, but please know that this represents only a small portion of the information out there. You can find far more information and research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
I recognize this amount of detail will satiate some, leave some of you wanting more, and might very well drown others. Please take what you need, and feel free to reach out with follow up questions and I will do my best to answer them in a follow-up email in a few weeks.
Basic Info About the COVID-19 Vaccine
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine worldwide, while clunky, is one of the most remarkable scientific accomplishments the world has ever seen. Going from discovering a new Coronavirus strain roughly a year ago, to having a vaccine with 95% efficacy that is being administered to people today, is quite a feat.
Regardless of your decision to take this vaccine or to pass on it, the science, research, technology and brain power that went into the study, research, rigorous testing and administration of this vaccine is nothing short of miraculous.
The primary question I’ve received is: is this vaccine rushed? And if so, is it still safe to receive?
While this vaccine was swift to come to market, the mRNA (Messenger Ribonucleic Acid) COVID-19 vaccine being administered in the United States (by Pfizer and Moderna) has been studied immunologically since the early 2000’s, when SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) first came to be known as infectious diseases. Vaccine research for these conditions was initiated, only to be cut short when these particular strains proved to be less fatal. Less profitable for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies means less people perishing from disease. And that means less research funding for vaccines, and new techniques of delivery. The vaccine research was then shelved until February of 2020, when the world was unknowingly being thrust into the grip of the pandemic in which we live today.
The mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine that help to protect against infectious diseases. A typical vaccine that many of us have received in the past (such as mumps, measles, rubella, and influenza) utilizes a weakened or inactivated germ into the body (also called an “Attenuated Virus”).
These vaccines elicit an immune response because they are so similar to the natural infection cycle, and therefore create a strong and long-lasting immune response. This somewhat antiquated delivery system, while highly effective, also tends to have more side effects, more cases of vaccine injury, and more problems long-term after inoculation.
When the newer mRNA vaccine is administered, it teaches our cells how to make specific “spike proteins,” or a piece of protein, that triggers an immune response within our bodies. That immune response produces antibodies, which protect us when we come into contact with the virus (in this case, COVID-19.)
The most compelling aspects of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to me are that they are NOT built from attenuated/dead virus pieces, they do NOT have any preservatives or adjuvants (hence the need for deep freeze/extreme cold for storage, and why they spoil so rapidly after production), and they have no heavy metals or toxic materials in their ingredients.
As with anything, the risk versus reward must be closely analyzed. While the mRNA vaccines seem to be less challenging to our systems, creating less side-effects, and less allergic reactions than traditional vaccines, we do not have long-term data to back this 100%.
We do, however, know that COVID-19 infection can create a myriad of challenges well after the infection is deemed “over,” even in otherwise very healthy people. Long-term effects to the lungs, heart, brain and blood vessels have been documented, and “Long Haulers” (also known as Post Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC)) cases are on the rise.
COVID-19 seems to be effecting the mental health of long-haulers, manifesting as depression and anxiety in a high number of post-infection patients.
At the time of writing this, there have been a small number of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to the COVID-19 vaccine. (11.1 cases per 1 million doses administered.) This is a very serious reaction, and the CDC is taking these reactions very seriously. If you have concerns regarding these reactions, or have had adverse reaction to vaccinations in the past, I advise you to contact your physician before getting vaccinated.
Who should NOT get the vaccine?
Are there people who should NOT be getting this vaccine?
YES, until more research is conducted.
There are a few groups of patients who I personally see that I would advise holding off getting vaccinated until we have more data. These patients include:
Immunocompromised: Those who are immunocompromised (HIV/AIDS patients, Cancer patients, transplant patients and those on immunosuppressing drug therapy), those suffering from chronic autoimmune conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, acutely sick Lyme patients, etc.), those in the middle of medically-directed fertility cycles, and chronically ill patients should consult their primary care physician before getting the vaccine. Given the evidence that suppressed immunity can trigger an elevated response among those vaccinated, I would recommend that these groups have a longer conversation with your medical provider before getting the vaccine.
Acutely sick: I would also suggest postponing vaccination if you are acutely sick or feeling rundown. It’s best to administer the vaccine when you’re at optimal health, where the body’s natural immunity can respond effectively and build antibodies for long-term inoculation.
Children under 16: Children under the age of 16 are currently NOT being given the COVID-19 vaccine. More research is being done on vaccine effect, efficacy and safety for children. If this changes, I’ll send an email letting you know.
Stay Vigilant For Long-Term, And Community Health
Regardless of your choice to vaccinate or not, it is still essential that we continue to be vigilant in following our public health guidelines:
- ALWAYS wear a mask over your nose and mouth in all public spaces.
- Continue to social distance and keep group gatherings to only those within your family/household/quarantine bubble.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Clean all high-touch surfaces daily
- Test and follow local public health guidelines if you come into contact with a person/persons suspected of having the COVID-19 infection, or if you show symptoms and suspect you are infected.
- Quarantine if you test positive according to the CDC guidelines.
- STAY VIGILANT! As we move toward herd immunity, it is imperative that we continue to practice these guidelines so we can move towards a healthier, less fatal, response to this virus.
Proactive Holistic Health Approach
As always, I promote a holistic approach to treating this virus. It is imperative that we continue to fortify our immune systems to ensure that if, and when, we come into contact with this (and any other immune-compromising bugs) that our bodies are capable of posing a healthy immune response.
This includes self-care and wellness routines such as:
- Healthy sleep cycles
- Eating a healthy, fresh, nourishing diet
- Appropriate hydration
- Adequate exercise and movement
- Fresh air
- Mindfulness practices
- Limited alcohol, sugar, fried and fatty foods, caffeine and foods high in saturated fats. I know, the good stuff.
Supplements for immune boosting/post-vaccine protocol
- Vitamin C (2000mg/day before, during and a few weeks after inoculation)
- Vitamin D
- A broad-spectrum Probiotic
- Quercetin (an anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid, 500mg/day a few days before, during, after the vaccine)
- Thuja (a homeopathic remedy used for headache, fever and fatigue, great for use day of, and 2 days after receiving the vaccine, take 2-3 doses/day)
As we continue to navigate our way through this public health crisis, I recognize that the pandemic fatigue is real, and people are threadbare from a year of such deep loss, social isolation, and weariness of the unknown.
I am right here beside you trying to find clarity in the muck. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions regarding your health or the health of your loved ones. We truly are all in this together, and I believe we can come out the other side stronger, healthier, more aware, and far more compassionate than when we entered.
Yours in Health,
Cameron Elmendorf, L.Ac., MSOM