Happy New Year everyone!

Hoping you had a restful Holiday break! Unfortunately, COVID did not take a break and we are entering a phase where this virus is becoming ever more present. The numbers are going up nationwide and here in Austin we are no exception. Daily, over 2,000 people in the United States are dying of complications related to COVID-19.

Please continue to mask up, wash your hands frequently, and keep your distance from people outside your home as the chances of exposure increase. In this era of COVID, we can challenge ourselves to optimize our health and focus on changing the risk factors that we can control. Continuing to think positive and maintain a grounded, healthy attitude can help us all feel a little less powerless.

As a New Year’s resolution or reset, I suggest revisiting the idea of internal PPE. In addition, as you may have heard, there is exciting news on the vaccine front. Like me, I’m sure most of you have been following this development and you may have questions. Receiving a vaccine is now unfolding as an option and a way out of this pandemic with less deaths and complications- a much needed ray of sunshine as we enter this new year!

I do not give vaccines in my practice due to logistics, but I certainly endorse them and encourage my patients to get vaccinated using a personalized approach. My personalized approach is informed both by my work in genomics, as well as a paradigm of vaccine safety called Adversomics.

I believe in the principle behind vaccines and am  inspired by our understanding of immunology and infectious diseases. There is no doubt that vaccines save lives; however, we need to be mindful regarding how individuals can respond differently to vaccines. I always tell my patients I am not provaccine or anti-vaccine, I am pro-patient. I want each patient to make the best individual decision for themselves, informed by evidence and in partnership with their physician.

If You’re Cautious or Anxious

For those of you who are cautious, anxious or hesitant because of the warp speed of this vaccine and want to learn more about it, and about my stance- This blog is for you!

Over the recent holiday break I have spent time in what I will call the “Vaccine Vortex”, trying to learn more about these two new COVID19 vaccines. There is so much to explore and different opinions on how to integrate and understand this new information. Recently one of my teachers Dr. Randy Horowitz at the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine did some great educational videos on vaccines and the COVID19 vaccine trials:

In his videos (above), Dr. Horowitz explains how we have gotten the COVID19 vaccines so quickly facilitated by Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership that has expedited the approval and delivery of these vaccines due to the severity of the pandemic. Like me, you may be as surprised at how fast the vaccine has been developed. You may even be more hesitant to get a vaccine due to this speedy development and prefer to “wait and see.” I encourage you to keep reading.

If You’re Eager

For those of you eager to get the vaccine, it is here! Soon folks in the 1B group will be able to get their vaccines. This group is designated for people for whom there is strong and consistent evidence that COVID-19 poses a higher risk of life threatening complications.

Frontline workers and nursing home residents are prioritized for the bulk of the first supply of vaccines.  As noted above, I do not provide vaccines at my office- however, if you do fall into the 1B group, I can provide documentation if needed to validate your status.

Be sure to read the resources below to learn where you can find a vaccine near you.

If You’re Against the Idea

For those of you who are anti vaccine and have strong feelings against this vaccine this blog is likely not for you.

I respectfully disagree with a strict anti-vaccine philosophy. I believe in the science of living a healthy lifestyle and reducing risk factors, but that that is not necessarily always the whole picture. Otherwise healthy people with no risk factors are developing severe symptoms with this virus. Some are experiencing lasting long term effects after recovery, and many are dying.

This is a serious pandemic requiring a public health approach including mask wearing and vaccines. There are many unknowns and those are not to be minimized; however, my ultimate opinion on the vaccine is to get it. 

I have heard the analogy of driving in relation to  this pandemic and now we can also apply it to the vaccine: Just like in driving, vaccination is not a risk-free activity.

I’m keenly aware of the risks every time I get in my car and there are some roads that are more risky than others. I try to do it safely and follow the rules and best practices. I wear my seatbelt. When I hear about accidents, I am curious about what happened. Was the driver unsafe? Was alcohol or a cell phone involved?  Were weather conditions contributing? I am trusting everyone, especially those who design the roads and those in charge of safety, to do their jobs well for the public good.

I realize that everyone involved may not value safety processes as much as I would like them to, and some have different risk thresholds or behaviors. That concerns me, but  I still get into my car and drive. I haven’t stopped driving. I don’t see each accident in a car as global evidence that we shouldn’t have cars and drive. And I don’t tell everyone else to stop driving. I also do not deny that there are accidents and risk. Judgement is involved. Discernment is key.

Blanket statements regarding vaccines don’t benefit anyone. Diseases have been prevented by vaccines. It’s also true that vaccines have injured some. So, we have a responsibility to meet in this liminal space with discernment around the current situation and with respect for each other. To do this, we must be aware of the seriousness of this current pandemic situation and all the tools we have available to us.

My bottomline opinion

Yes, I recommend getting the COVID19 vaccine. The benefits outweigh the risks of getting the vaccine versus the virus. I plan to get mine soon.

I don’t want the virus, I want the vaccine. This can lead to less severity in infections, less hospitalizations, and most importantly, less deaths.

Do I prefer Pfizer or Moderna’s? Both are so similar I suggest getting the one most readily available to you.

Please Note

The new COVID19 vaccines do not prevent infection. Whether they prevent infection entirely or simply prevent the symptoms still remains unknown. This means that someone who is vaccinated may still be capable of carrying and transmitting the virus.

We do know that the vaccine limits viral replication, even within an infected person. Limiting viral replication means less transmission of the virus to others, less hospitalizations, and less deaths. As more people get vaccinated and develop neutralizing antibodies to the COVID19 infection, over time there will be less transmission within the population.

The immune response of each vaccinated person is variable. This is true of all vaccines, as immunity is related to many factors such as age, health, diet, microbiome, genetics, inflammation, sleep, environment, and stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks of triggering autoimmune issues? 

The simple answer is that the risk of triggering autoimmune issues is far greater with getting the true COVID19 virus versus the vaccine. The vaccine contains the messenger RNA (mRNA) of the COVID19 spike protein in a controlled dose. It does not deliver a dilution of the whole virus.

Does the mRNA COVID vaccine change or impact my DNA in any way? 

No. Messenger RNA goes into the ribosomes of your cells and helps build immunity. It does not go into the nucleus or change the primary makeup of the cell.

Can I do anything to help myself before or after getting the COVID vaccine? 

Try to be as healthy as possible before the vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you feel sick, are experiencing an autoimmune flare, or are unusually stressed or sleep deprived. You may want to incorporate antioxidants such as 250 mg of Glutathione or 600mg twice per day of N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) for a week prior to vaccination. Post vaccination, aim to avoid acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as an immune reaction such as a mild fever are signs that your immune system is building the antibodies against COVID19.Also if you are taking resolvins such as SPM active, hold it for 3 days after the vaccine to encourage the immune response.

Do I still need to wear a mask?  

Yes. The virus can still spread. We will still need to mask and distance for the foreseeable future, until the pandemic is under control, and there are few enough cases that testing and contact tracing can be effective again.

Could I react to the vaccine? 

Vaccine reactions do exist, yet reactions to the virus are much more common. To those who are hypersensitive to anything and everything, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about if the vaccine is for you. Some people experience pain in the arm (at the site of the injection) or a low grade fever, chills, fatigue or headache post vaccination. Imagine this is your body building up immunity against that spike protein to protect you!

Conclusion

As a physician, I will be working with my patients to make judgment calls as to who might not be a candidate for the vaccine. I will use my clinical experience, medical knowledge and understanding of their specific situation to help advise. There are certain people for whom it is not appropriate to get this vaccine or perhaps most vaccines. If your immune system is on fire or we see evidence of fragile genomics or biology from previous patterns or current circumstances, that will inform our decision.

In spite of all that we’re learning about the novel Coronavirus, I honor and accept that I do not know all the answers. No one does.

What we do know is this: About one in 100 people who become infected with COVID-19 will die from complications due to the virus. Thus far, there have been no deaths from the vaccine.

Physicians are still learning more about this disease every day. And given the information that we currently have about what we all are facing- I endorse the vaccine.

We are all hoping for a better 2021! And with help from these new tools, perhaps we’ll all be breathing a little easier later this year.

Perfect is the Enemy of Good  

 -Voltaire

For further reading:

Why People Receiving the COVID-19 Vaccines Still Need to Wear Masks

Phased Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines

Vaccine provider locations in Texas

Understanding Messenger RNA and Other SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines

Centers for Disease Control: COVID Vaccine Tracker in the US