Author: Lily Mazzarella, MS, CNS
I’ve been getting dozens of emails from concerned clients, asking about the new Covid-19 vaccines. Should they get one? Am I going to get it? Do I think it’s safe? Was the vaccine too rushed? Similar questions are flooding into Farmacopia, where we are hearing a lot of understandable confusion, hesitancy, and concern. I thought I would take this opportunity to send out a note to our wider audience who may be having similar questions, about how and why I’ve arrived at my answers.
The short answer is, I am encouraging anyone who is able to get the vaccine to do so. Exceptions include some groups with relatively rare autoimmune/inflammatory neurological diseases and mast cell activation disorders. It seems that people with severe allergic diseases may need to sit out for the time being, or at least be observed for some time after vaccination. We are encouraging anyone with concerns to speak to their naturopath, doctor or health care provider to see how their concerns might be addressed.
I understand the hesitancy some people are feeling when faced with taking the new Covid-19 vaccine. After all, I’ve been a clinician in the “alternative” medicine world for nearly 20 years, and have seen many people who have been failed, sometimes disastrously, by conventional medicine. This is often why people seek me out. Indeed, some of you already know that this is how I ended up in my field: dismissed by doctors, failed by medications and even surgical procedures, I sought (and found) healing with other modalities. I’ve had all kinds of reactions to all kinds of substances, especially medications and over the counter meds, but also to foods and herbs, and know what it’s like to move through life with a sensitive system.
And to be honest, I was pretty freaked out when I first heard about the new mRNA technology utilized in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently available in the US. It sounded like totally miraculous mad scientific genius for sure, but was I willing to get it injected into my body?
As I educated myself further on the particulars, I became more and more excited how these vaccines work, how WELL they work, and how safe they actually are. Their development was accelerated, but not rushed in a way that skipped over important steps. The new vaccines don’t contain any of the creepy adjuvants (additives/preservatives) that can be found in some vaccines. Low on adjuvants and high on efficacy is a winning combo in my book! I am a big proponent of using the tools that work, and I think the vaccine is the best one we’ve got for the Covid pandemic.
Yes, Covid-19 vaccine reactions do occur. I do not want to elide or minimize that fact. And mild, transient side effects are common and need to be distinguished from “reaction,” adverse event, or true vaccine injury. Yes, the immune system gets activated and that can sometimes make us feel like crap—or even have us take to bed for a few days (this happened to my husband, who was recently vaccinated. He said that his shot arm felt like it had been kicked by Bruce Lee; he also got a little fever and was extremely tired for 24 hours). However, serious reactions, adverse events and vaccine injury really are exceptionally rare.
So, is there zero risk? No, there never really is with any medical intervention. And there are unanswered questions to which only time will provide answers. But when weighed against the peril of an outsized, mismanaged, and very, very dangerous virus that is currently killing between 3 and 4 thousand Americans per day, day after day, and leaving thousands of survivors disabled, I am making my calculations and the answer to my equation is an overwhelming YES to vaccination. A vaccine that is more than 95% effective against Covid-19 and is safer than my drive to work was this morning? Heck yes. It is the best way out of this mess we find ourselves in. While we do await data to let us know how long post-vaccination immunity lasts, and whether the vaccine provides protection against some of the new variants (which were anticipated!), scientists say we have every reason to be hopeful about this—they simply can’t say for certain, yet. Even though we can’t know everything now, getting vaccinated is an important step towards quashing the virus now, and helping us get on with our lives.
There are other considerations regarding the vaccine campaign unrelated to concerns for my personal health or safety that I feel are important to share. I am getting vaccinated not only because the vaccine may well end up saving my life, but also the life of one of my co-workers, clients, friends or family. I am getting vaccinated because this virus affects communities of color disproportionately and in devastating ways, and I believe that opting out may be a form of unexamined privilege. I’m getting vaccinated because many people don’t have the luxury to stay home or work socially distant jobs and they should be protected. I’m getting vaccinated to help protect children, who won’t receive a vaccine anytime soon and can experience severe Covid-19 disease. I’m getting vaccinated because in a country rife with systemic racism and massive economic inequality, “natural herd immunity” just isn’t a thing—it’s an extermination strategy. I’m getting vaccinated because this pandemic stole a year from elderly people at the end of their lives, and deprived children of important developmental conditions in the beginning of theirs. This pandemic has isolated and harmed countless people, trapped spouses and children with abusers, and delayed important non-Covid diagnoses and medical treatments for so many. It is time to put a stop to it. We need to achieve herd immunity in the most safe, compassionate and responsible way, and I want to be a part of that by getting a vaccine.
I understand not everyone may agree with me, not everyone is going to feel that the vaccine is right for them, and that’s okay. Mutual respect and openness are qualities we pride ourselves on at Farmacopia, and we’re here for you no matter what you decide about the vaccine, whether you are able to get it or not. We will continue to partner with ALL of our clients and customers on their health goals without judgement, regardless of vaccination status.
For those choosing vaccination, we are here to help support your body and mind through the process. We have suggestions to share with you that can help you in the days leading up to, and after your doses of the vaccines.
We need to look out for each other. So many have pointed out how the virus highlights our interconnectedness as humans on a shared planet and I agree. Let us reach out with kindness and love in 2021 and hope that at some point soon we can actually touch each other.
Big virtual hug,
Pfizer/Moderna Vaccine Snapshot as of mid-January 2021
Safe: 2-6 cases of severe reaction per million doses; very low incidence of side effects.
Clean: Low adjuvant (additive/preservatives)
Effective: Vaccine has been “undersold” to us—it is between 95-99% effective and is expected to confer immunity for a year or more. And it IS suspected to keep us from being carriers as well from contracting severe Covid-19 disease. It IS suspected to protect us from variants. Boosters specific to variants may need to be developed, but again, this is expected when there is a new, rapidly mutating virus.
New technology: It is not possible to contract Covid-19 from the mRNA vaccines. You can contract Covid before vaccination and not know you have it and develop symptoms, and you can contract Covid between the 1st and 2nd doses of the vaccine, before immunity has developed. But you can’t contract it FROM the vaccine. My husband, who was quite sick with Covid a few months ago, did say that his mild reaction after his first vaccine shot reminded him a bit of being sick with Covid. But that’s because his immune system was being activated, not because he was re-infected!
Sources I use:
JAMA Covid Resource Center (all Covid content is free!)
Coronavirus Task Force Briefing 1.27.21
Pubmed.gov (all Covid content is free!)
For numbers and impact reporting: CDC.gov, NY Times
The statements in this article are meant to be informative, not to diagnose or prescribe any treatment of symptom or disease. The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the FDA.
Lily Mazzarella is not a medical doctor, and does not take the place of a medical doctor. She is a Clinical Herbalist and Certified Nutrition Specialist, and offers information and guidelines pertinent to her field of Health. Farmacopia is a center for health promotion and information.