Carvings       September 15, 2021

In the news

To boost or not to boost. Hamlet had an easier choice.

            As if the coronavirus hadn’t already scrambled our brains – literally or figuratively – the need for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (or a second if you had the J&J vaccine) is the argument du jour and probably will be until sometime early in 2022.

            No matter what the stimulus might be, a natural infection or an artificial one like a vaccine, immunity always declines. The protection provided by a vaccine tends to be less long-lasting than that produced by natural infection but that’s not always the case. Natural tetanus can occur more than once yet developing tetanus after having received the vaccine is extremely rare. On the other hand, persons who have had natural mumps will never have a recurrence; some persons who have received two doses of the mumps vaccine might experience it again by the time they reach twenty. I mention these two very different responses to highlight the fact that the science of immunology is so complex that we should not be surprised if the experts are not sure of how to evaluate the need for boosters of the COVID vaccine.

            Expect even more confusion, considering these factors: there are many strains of coronavirus circulating around the world; there are already five different vaccines being given in various countries and scores more are under development; not everyone has the same quality of the immune system and not everyone responds the same way to an infection or to a vaccine; many among us have weakened or disordered immune systems because of an illness such as leukemia, chemotherapy, or even conditions such as obesity or diabetes. Whew!

            Be patient! Expect disagreement among the experts.

            At the moment it appears that not everyone needs to consider a booster dose of the vaccine but in my opinion, anyone over the age of 65 (just a convenient number that I picked because that’s when Medicare begins) and especially if they have a comorbidity such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension or disease of the heart, lungs or kidneys should consider a booster dose.

            Should you “mix and match”, i.e., should you get a different type of booster vaccine than your primary series? Studies are underway now to determine that.

            How long after your primary series should you get a booster? Probably at least 6 months.

            Can you expect even more side effects and/or discomfort after the booster than you had after the second dose? It probably depends on what your previous discomfort, if any, was like and what type of vaccine you get as a booster. Remember that if the artificial infection (the vaccine) ruined your day, the natural virus might have killed you or made you really sick.

            But in all of this, the most important thing is to get the vaccine!! I have recently read that MOST of the vaccine-refusers are opposed because fetal tissue was used in the vaccine development. My take: if it doesn’t bother the Pope it shouldn’t bother the rest of us. Those cells were harvested more than two generations ago and there is not a molecule of the original tissue in today’s cell cultures. Does it bother me that human fetuses were used to develop vaccines? Of course, but we can’t undo that.

            Finally, should children under age 19 get the vaccine? My opinion: only if they have a comorbidity, and that includes even being overweight.

Lifestyle

            Aaaarghhh! The issue of eggs and cholesterol is back in the news and today’s argument, that we should have no more than a couple of eggs per week and even fewer if we have cholesterol problems is as inane as it was 40 years ago.

            Here’s the straight skinny: unless you are eating several eggs every day, the cholesterol in an egg (less than 200 milligrams) will not raise your cholesterol for one simple reason. The more cholesterol in your diet the less your liver will manufacture. However, if you are unlucky enough to have a genetic tendency to have a high LDL cholesterol, consider having them only occasionally. Eggs have too many healthy nutrients to give them up forever.

            BUT: it’s those “egg helpers” that raise cholesterol, the bacon, sausage, butter, hash browns, ham and Canadian bacon. Even then, an occasional (once a week) serving is not going to push you into an early grave. If you substitute those delicious but saturated fat-laden evil foods with a scoop of frozen mixed vegetables to make a great omelet, you’ll be getting all the benefits of eggs with no downside. Enjoy!

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