There are a lot of emotions around Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines for Covid that are currently available. Excitement, apprehension, concern and relief seem to be waving over the entire population. As a naturopathic physician, I hold an interesting role in our healthcare system. Often integrative medicine means all things not conventional, making me be the one looking from the outside in. This gives me a unique perspective on the vaccines coming out currently.
The big pink elephant in the room is that this vaccine has only been around less than a year. We also don’t have long-term data on the effects of it. That being said, I feel we are acknowledging this big pink elephant. In fact, I think because of this big pink elephant we are doing a lot of things right with this vaccine.
1. Transparency & Communication
More than any other vaccine I have seen come through, Pfizer and Moderna are providing all of the information they have, including possible side effects and ingredients. They are allowing every individual who gets the vaccine an easy opportunity to give feedback on side effects and symptoms. Putting a vaccine tracking system in place this quickly for every individual who got the vaccine is pretty amazing.
Because mRNA vaccines are kept so cold, there are no preservatives needed. And because of how an mRNA vaccine works, there are no adjuvants – additives that ramp up your immune system. Often the skeptics of vaccinations point to these two concerns when discussing vaccines.
3. “There are no side effects, only effects.”
People are feeling trepidation around the mild to moderate side effects associated with the second shot. Fever, headache, body aches and fatigue are the common “side effects” of this vaccine. They are also the symptoms of your immune system building an immune response, which is not a bad thing. The way mRNA vaccines work, it asks your body to respond to the spike proteins. A natural approach to building antibodies to Covid would include your immune system ramping up in response. Flu-like symptoms mean that your immune system is working and learning how to fight covid! The nice part is, unlike Covid, these symptoms are short-lived.
4. “But I still have to wear a mask.”
I love that we are acknowledging that a vaccine is only part of the prevention. Oftentimes the dialogue around the flu vaccine is “get the vaccine and prevent the flu”. There is little other dialogue around prevention. We know masks reduce the spread of this virus and help prevent other people from getting sick. Integrative medicine is now showing other things can help promote your immune health and support your body with fighting an infection. Reducing stress, adequate sleep, hydration and a whole foods diet that limits caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar and flour are all simple ways we can be active in prevention! I am happy that the CDC is honest that there are a lot of ways that we can work on prevention, not just a vaccine!
Creating a New Standard for Vaccines
We don’t know the long-term effects of this vaccine. I appreciate the honesty around this. mRNA vaccines are new, and yet the technology and research have been around since the 1990s. There is a risk to any medication or vaccine. There is also a risk to not taking a medication or vaccine.
For the patients I’ve lost, for the family members I miss, for my community and the world that is struggling because of this pandemic, I got my vaccine. It did not feel like a hard decision to me, and honestly felt easier than a lot of other vaccines. I’m hoping this vaccine creates a new trend of transparency, communication and upleveling our prevention going forward.