A Point of View 22
“I got my vaccine, I feel free again”. Let’s review
The moment people receive their first vaccine, something changes. They feel SO relieved. They are SO happy. There is finally room for some optimism. After a year of this pandemic ravaging the world and changing our lives so considerably, I do not blame people having these emotions one bit. But as you can probably guess, by the way I’m writing this, these reactions don’t mirror reality; at least not completely
What happens after your first vaccination?
I am only discussing the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, at this point. The soon to be released Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a different type of vaccine and will have different endpoints for immunity.
Once you get your first dose, the body needs to manufacture the S protein that is encoded by the mRNA. This happens in the muscle where the vaccine was put. Your arm gets sore. It’s working hard to make that Spike protein (not the virus, just the spike protein that is situated on the outside of the virus). A few days later there is enough Spike protein made, that the body realizes that there is a foreign invader. It begins to mount an immune response against the S protein. This is exactly what you want.
Then the immune system begins to make antibodies and the T-cell arm of the immune system becomes activated too. What is the earliest you might have enough antibody to fight off SARS-CoV-2 after you are immunized? Possibly at 14 days after your first shot – if you are young and healthy. If you are immunocompromised, you may not get a good enough response until you have a second shot. If you are old you may not get a good enough response until you have a second shot. BUT, you are far better off than not having been vaccinated at all.
Let’s say you are a perfect human specimen, you have received the vaccine, and enough time has elapsed for the correct immune responses to have happened. Does that mean you won’t get Covid-19? No. The 95% efficacy rate they are quoting is about fighting the disease (making immunity), not being 100% protected from the disease. 95% is an outrageously good response (the flu vaccine is around 60%). So you can still get Covid-19, even if you have immunity. But you might not get it bad enough to feel it. Or if you aren’t a perfect human specimen, you might not get so sick that you need to seek medical attention. It's not black and white; it's shades of grey.
Once you get the second shot, your odds increase in fighting the disease. And seven days after the second shot, is when you are beginning to get max benefit.
How long does this immunity last?
If the virus doesn’t shapeshift, scientists are saying that you would have good immunity (ability to fight the disease well) for at least 9 months.
The virus is Shapeshifting
Apparently, this has been happening all along, but nobody looked. Scientists reported that coronaviruses in general are stable, so don’t expect any important mutations. And I passed that (mis) information on to you, early in the pandemic. But this isn’t the case. What follows is from Dr. Hazeltine’s 1/27/21 VuMedi lecture. I’ve introduced him before – he is a giant in the field of vaccines and immunology.
The mutation story goes like this. The pandemic began in Wuhan probably around November 2019. By February 2020 it had spread to Europe and the US. (I personally got sick with it Jan 2020, but that’s another story). The virus that spread to Europe and the US from China already had mutated to a more infectious form. We (Europe and the US) were unprepared for the pandemic, but it didn’t help that the virus was more infectious than the one that hit Wuhan.
Since scientists wanted to believe that this virus doesn’t mutate, they didn’t look for mutations. As Dr. Hazeltine says in his lecture – “Look and you will find”. They are just starting to look now, and they are finding many mutations. Since the US has around 25% of all Covid-19 infections in the world, we have a huge ability to have more mutations here. More bodies infected – more opportunity for mutation. He discussed a case of a person in Great Britain with Covid-19 who had a bad immune system. They gave him monoclonal antibodies, drugs and any other possible treatments that could save his life. The virus mutated at least three times, just in this one person.
What do these mutations do?
Scientists just started looking, so of course we have a very incomplete answer. But for now we see that the virus is changing so it is more infectious. There are many ways it can change to do this. I won’t go into what those are. But what it leads to can be huge uncontrollable outbreaks – like what is going on in Great Britain right now. The mutation there is much more infectious (in the up to 10 times more infectious range). Masks that kept out “enough” virus in the past to keep people from getting sick or just causing an asymptomatic or “light” infection, won’t keep out enough of this variant in Great Britain and other places, which needs far fewer infectious particles to cause infection. Therefore, more people are getting infected.
How much more infectious can the virus get? Some Israeli scientists have looked at this in a lab. They found ways to make the virus more infectious and then found that nature had already done this in parts of the world in real life. They also found one variant in their lab that was 600 times more infectious. You can see where this is going. The virus is going to become more and more infectious, more and more resistant to treatments and so forth.
What can we do?
We can quit serving ourselves up as mixing bowls for more mutations. Which means we need to quit getting infected. For those unable to get the vaccine at the moment, use precautions. Always wear a multilayered mask. Stay six feet apart. Etc. Once you’ve gotten the vaccine series, keep wearing a mask. Those variants are already in the US. We don’t want them to spread. Even these brand new vaccines just coming out for distribution (Pfizer/Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, AstraZenca in GB and the yet to be released Novovax) don’t work as well to protect against some of the new variants. That is how it will be if the virus is given a chance to mutate by infecting someone and mutating.
Don’t be a mixing bowl.
So to sum it up, what’s going to happen?
I don’t know. We don’t have enough data. Some people are projecting that this will be like the flu, where we revaccinate every year to provide protection against the new strains. I think they are already working on a booster shot against some mutations for the mRNA vaccines. Can new boosters keep up with the pace of mutations? IDK.
For now, please get a vaccine or if you already have one consider volunteering to help people get vaccines (this isn't just giving shots; the organizational piece is monstrous). We need to slow this virus from spreading. And keep wearing your mask out in public; stay six feet apart. Be cautiously optimist.
Be well, stay well, Erika
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Erika Steffe MD practiced Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine for 25 years and Hospice for 5 years in Sonoma County CA. Additionally she is self trained in Integrative Medicine, including Mind/Body medicine, certified in Guided Imagery and Dreamtending (working with dreams) and has had 20 years of training with Jungian analysts and psychologists. She is now consulting with patients via telemedicine.