IS VACCINATION THE ONLY ANSWER TO THE PANDEMIC?
If you were to believe the media, the only way out of the Covid pandemic is vaccination. But is this true? As we shall see it isn’t even close to the truth.
Unfortunately discussions on vaccines often get polarised to pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine. In reality vaccines vary greatly: some are highly effective and some cause problems.
For most of my time in general practice one of the most feared diseases for both doctors and parents was Meningitis B. This was because this disease could be difficult to spot and could kill quickly. Fortunately there is now a meningitis B vaccine and since its introduction cases have dropped by 62% in England (between 2015 and 2018). This has been a major benefit and has made the world safer.
But not all vaccines have been a success. A vaccine for dengue, given to children in the Philippines, resulted in the vaccinated getting more severe disease and even dying. The vaccine was suspended.
Other vaccines like the flu vaccine have marginal benefits. The independent Cochrane Collaboration estimated it reduced the chance of having influenza by 1% (to be specific your chances of not getting the flu are 98% without the vaccine and 99% with it).
An added concern is that a study in children found that those that had received the flu vaccine had a four fold risk of other respiratory viruses including coronavirus: https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/54/12/1778/455098#:~:text=https%3A//doi.org/10.1093/cid/cis307
This is through a phenomenon known as viral interference and is likely to happen with adults as well.
So where does the Covid vaccine stand?
One of the first countries to vaccinate most of its population was Israel (mainly with the Pzifer vaccine). Initially this was highly successful, as in the UK, and allowed the country to return to normal.
However immunity has waned sharply in those who had two jabs and it is now thought to be 39% effective (16% in those who had jabs in January) and its ability to prevent severe disease is now only 55%. This led to prime minister, Naftali Bennett, stating “Paradoxically the most vulnerable group right now are those who have been inoculated with two jabs”. Presently 60% of those in hospital in Israel with Covid have had two jabs.
As over 80% of the population had received two jabs the data still showed a modest protective effect against severe disease but not nearly as much as hoped.
The Zoe Covid Study has also shown waning immunity from vaccines in the UK though this is not as marked as in Israel (slightly less waning for the AstraZeneca vaccine than the Pfizer vaccine).
An additional problem is that the large Octave study found 40% of the most vulnerable (to Covid 19) produced lower levels of antibodies than healthy recipients after receiving two vaccines.
So vaccines have helped but have limitations: waning immunity, reduced effectiveness in the vulnerable, and the need for boosters.
IS THERE ANOTHER WAY TO KEEP OURSELVES SAFE IN THE FACE OF WANING VACCINE IMMUNITY?
There certainly is.
Since Covid 19 first appeared there have been about 30-40 studies in different parts of the world on the effectiveness of Vitamin D in preventing infection with this virus. They all showed roughly the same thing.
Maintaining a good Vitamin D level has reduced the incidence of Covid 19, reduced its severity, reduced the chance of hospitalisation and reduced mortality (see previous blog –”Three Blood Tests that can Identify a High Risk of Covid 19″ -for details of some of these studies). The data is, in my view, absolutely conclusive.
With Covid 19 still around this is a dangerous time to have a deficiency of Vitamin D.
Now we have a problem in the UK. The majority of the population have low levels of Vitamin D, below the normal of 75-150 nmol/l and way below the ideal level for optimum protection which is 150 nmol/l and above. Even in sunny Barcelona (Vitamin D comes from sunshine) 45% of the population are low in Vitamin D.
Ideally get your Vitamin D levels checked.
And those most at risk of dying from Covid 19 (the obese and those from the BAME communities) are known to have, on average, much lower Vitamin D levels. They are also more prone to metabolic syndrome (see below).
Basically the immune system cannot work properly without Vitamin D. It arms the T cells and B lymphocytes which are vital for our immunity. Not only is Vitamin D effective but it is cheap and without any adverse effects and has many added benefits. It reduces the risk of all infections and not least: it substantially reduces the risk of cancer (see leaflets on breast and colon cancer –reducing the risks). Unlike vaccinations the immunity does not wear off (as long as you keep taking it).
So the vaccines have helped but could be running out of steam. However we have another highly effective way to protect ourselves. That is to take Vitamin D supplements. This is a now a standard recommendation in Eire. (Please note it takes 2 weeks after starting Vitamin D supplements for them to be fully activated in the body and hence for you to receive full protection from them). I personally take 4000 iu Vitamin D daily and have no plans to change.
The other major risk factor for Covid 19 is METABOLIC SYNDROME (see separate leaflet). This affects 1 in 5 in the UK, most of the obese and nearly everyone with diabetes. Eating a diet low in sugar and white flour products will help resolve metabolic syndrome.