Why I Got The COVID Vaccines

Opinion: Why I got vaccinated
It’s the most responsible approach to the health of your neighbors and fellow community members.

published in the Juneau Empire, Thursday, March 4, 2021 12:15pm

A year ago, the Empire graciously printed my opinion piece “Why I’m Wearing a Mask.” I’ll tell you, one reason I got the COVID vaccines is because wearing a mask is getting old, and I want to do my part in helping us get past necessary mask mandates.

Eventually, we will be safe to go maskless, but not yet. It would be beyond horrible to inadvertently be an asymptomatic carrier who infected a more vulnerable neighbor, patient or family member, who then suffered from getting sick, becoming a “long-hauler” or worse. Some say getting a vaccine is a personal choice — of course it is. However if you opt out of the vaccine then you’re responsible to not be a potential disease vector, which means staying home (not feasible if you can’t work from home) or taking all the usual precautions when in public.

Many cultures, for many centuries, have protected against airborne viruses by covering their mouths and noses while exposed to crowds of people. I see now how sensible, effective and considerate this is — both to self and others. I no longer think masked travelers from pre-pandemic times are odd — I get it now. By the way, airplanes have state of the art HEPA filter air scrubbers and airline travel remains very low risk for viral spread. However, wandering around the airport, or taking public transport, will remain risky until enough folks have been vaccinated to lock in herd immunity.

That is the whole idea with the vaccines: to accelerate herd immunity without more people dying. With the mRNA technology (which is not new — it’s just new in terms of human vaccination delivery) it doesn’t “mess with your genes.” There definitely are no “microchips” in the liquid. If you are concerned about “the government” tracking you, stop using a cellphone. I took the fat-digesting enzyme lipase for a few days after my shots to help break up the fat-based nano-particles surrounding the mRNA. The mRNA technique bypasses the part of your immune response which engages with your DNA (genes). DNA is found in the nucleus of every cell in our bodies and is the blueprint for generating proteins and enzymes required for tissue repair and for metabolic pathways which drive digestion, nutrient absorption and elimination. Messenger RNA is a copy of specific bits of DNA that works outside the nucleus.

Older vaccines (as well as the Johnson & Johnson one that just became available) deliver “attenuated” virus (sounds better than “dead” virus) which stimulate our DNA to create an antibody response. These vaccines have largely worked well — they have virtually eradicated polio and smallpox globally because those viruses didn’t mutate much. The flu shot is significantly less effective (50% compared to 95% with the COVID shots) because the “flu” adenovirus mutates constantly, changing every year. COVID-19 has mutated somewhat but not nearly as much as the “flu” virus, which is why there is increasing confidence that all the available vaccines will work well to protect against all known variants (except maybe not AstraZeneca for the South African variant, unfortunately).

The Moderna and Pfizer shots have some differences, but both were tested in about 30,000 people of diverse age and ethnicity and health status and there have been zero fatalities from the vaccines, and a fairly low number of short-term side effects like fatigue, headache, sore arm and occasional temporary anaphylaxis. In the tragic death of a Florida obstetrician, a causal relationship with the Pfizer vaccine has not been established.

Witness how COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are plummeting since the vaccine roll-out. The mRNA shots allow your immune system to create antibodies to the infective part of COVID (the spike protein) without opening your cells’ nuclei (which house the double-helix genetic material made of DNA).

Tracking responses to the vaccines is an ongoing project and it looks really good for low side effects plus exceptional effectiveness in preventing not only illness but also transmission. Sort of like how we agreed to be respectful and wear masks even though we don’t love it — think of agreeing to be vaccinated because it’s the most responsible approach to the health of your neighbors and fellow community members.

Because I’m a so-called “alternative” doctor and columnist, many people have solicited my opinion on the COVID vaccine and it is my privilege to share my thoughts. I am absolutely against the “standard” pediatric vaccine schedule in the U.S. — I think our infants get way too many shots during the early years when their immune systems are not yet mature. I’m also chagrined at the volume of bad information about the COVID vaccine on conspiracy theory websites. I’m especially sad about the less-than-stellar history of BIPOC and child-bearing Americans getting sub-standard access to health care. Activism from awareness is starting to improve this blemish on our collective history.

Despite plenty of work to be done in the humanitarian arena, our progress with science has allowed the development of a highly effective vaccine against a lethal virus that is still at large. COVID-19 is not a political issue; the virus is indiscriminate. All living past and current U.S. presidents and their spouses and staff, Republican and Democratic, have received vaccination against COVID-19. Let’s beat this thing together!

• Dr. Emily Kane has provided nutritionally-based primary care services in Juneau for nearly 30 years.