I have had several clients ask my opinion on whether I plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Although I do NOT get annual flu vaccines, I undoubtedly WILL get a COVID-19 vaccine. It is important for everyone to make their own decision as we all have different circumstances. I will share with you my personal knowledge of vaccine facts, the current safety issues, considerations for people with underlying health issues, resources on the differences of each vaccine, actions to take before getting a vaccine, and what to expect after receiving a vaccine.
My Considerations for Annual Flu Vaccine
My decision whether to get any vaccine is mostly about weighing the risk verses benefit of contracting the virus and of the vaccine itself. The annual flu vaccine is usually around 10-30% effective depending on the year. This low efficacy rate is mostly because pharmaceutical companies create the vaccine based on the prior year flu strain.
I don’t feel there is a huge downside to contracting the flu virus in my current health state. When I do get the flu, I have minor issues and recovery is often quick. My risk of developing pneumonia from the flu is likely low. Because of this and the low efficacy rate of the vaccine, I choose to not get this vaccine.
This decision to not get a flu vaccine could change in the future if my health weakens or the vaccine efficacy rate was higher.
Some Important COVID-19 Vaccine Facts
Although it seems the COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly, the 40,000 participants in a study is significant. Due to the speed of the study, there are some unknowns such as how long one can wait to get the second shot (for those vaccines that require two shots). The only reason we don’t know this, is because the vaccine producers didn’t test longer periods of time between shots. They simply didn’t take the time to do so in the initial trial in order to get a vaccine to market.
The efficacy of 95% or 94% is also significant for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. They do not currently (Feb 2021), prevent contracting COVID-19 however. Yet they are effective at greatly reducing symptoms and hospitalizations. Some future vaccines may address transmission of the virus.
Please see resource link below for further vaccine information including the vaccines still coming to market.
Safety of Vaccines
Are the vaccines completely safe? There have been deaths, allergic reactions, and Bell’s palsy outcomes after taking both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (which may or may not have been associated with the vaccine). For example, 3 vaccine participants, and 1 placebo participant experienced Bell’s Palsy in the Moderna study. There was no causal relationship noted. Myocardial infarction (5 cases in vaccine group vs. 3 cases in placebo group) was noted as more serious adverse effects. See more information here.
The vaccine is not guaranteed to be completely safe. Yet the risk seems incredibly low when compared to COVID-19 infection complications. Added cautions are noted for certain individuals such as those with uncontrolled autoimmune disease. You can check vaccine ingredients in case of known allergies. There are also unknowns with children and pregnant or nursing mothers yet pregnant women are also at higher risk of COVID-19 complications should they contract the virus. At this time, there is not much data for special circumstances and a risk assessment is recommended. Talk to your doctor if you fall into a special category. See resources for more information below.
My Thought Process
Safety concerns of the vaccines for me was a lower risk than contracting COVID-19. Medical doctor Heather Zwickey states that 40% of moderate to severe COVID infections have long-term issues such as damage to the heart, neurological, lung, and others. This is a bigger concern for me than current safety issues of the vaccine.
I personally dug into the research, listened to MD’s on webinars explaining the vaccines and COVID-19 to their colleagues (yes, I tend to crash MD discussion groups), to boost my confidence in my own decision.
And although I feel my health is at a place where my risk with a COVID-19 infection would likely be low, I just feel confident in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and have decided to move forward with it (when it is my turn).
Infecting others is also a big consideration. Doing my part to get our economy and schools back to normal or at least a “new normal” was important in my decision. I will be watching closely at the vaccine advancements in hopes they eliminate transmission of the virus as I feel it is important for those unable to get a vaccine. Addressing the other strains will also be an important factor which is included in the chart noted in the next section.
I am not here to convince anyone to take or not take a vaccine. It is a personal decision. But it is important to be confident in the approach you took in making your decision. If you are lacking confidence, I urge you to do some research and talk to your primary care physician. The Institute of Functional Medicine* has a nifty chart they update regularly that lists all the vaccines in phase 3 trials and information about each one such as the ingredients, outstanding questions, at-risk populations, overall protection and efficacy, whether they address new strains of the virus, and potential adverse reactions. It appears to be a tool for medical professionals and it may raise more questions for you. But it is there for your reference none-the-less. The website has articles for the patient as well.
*Note: Functional Medicine is additional training medical doctors receive. From IFM.org…. “Functional Medicine, determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.”
Considerations Prior to Receiving a Vaccine
Should you choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine, there are things to consider to maximize the efficacy and minimize adverse reactions according to Dr. Joel Evans, MD. You may want to consider these health protocols every day regardless of COVID. In general, you want to optimize your immune system and reduce inflammation. Consider lifestyle factors such as:
- Proper sleep (especially 2-3 days prior and after vaccine)
- Regular exercise/movement
- Nutrition and gut health (most of immune system is in the gut)
- Reduce stress especially prior to the vaccine.
- Nurture relationships as they matter with regards to overall health and your immune system
Drinking alcohol or smoking would likely hinder the effects of the vaccine as well – common sense applies here. And it might be wise to take your multi-vitamin as vit A, D, E, and Zinc may help recover from the vaccine.
Underlying Health Conditions
Dr. Evans also states that if you have underlying infections, it may be wise to take care of it prior to getting the vaccine. If you are getting treatment for cancer, you should talk to your doctor about whether to delay the vaccine. If you are pregnant, it is wise to talk to your doctor as well. Most often it is recommended to delay the vaccine but if you are in high-risk areas of contracting COVID-19, that may play into your decision.
Dr. Zwickey noted that if you have frequent autoimmune flare-ups, consider talking to your doctor about the vaccine and potential issues. If your autoimmune disease is controlled, you are in a safer place to consider the vaccine. Again, talk to your doctor. Dr. Evans noted that other conditions such as depression and low self-esteem can suppress your immune system and may hinder your response to the vaccine.
If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past month, it is suggested to wait at least 90 days before getting the vaccine.
Does Time of Day Matter?
Although any time of day is likely going to be effective, there is an optimal time to get the vaccine. Dr. Zwickey explained that your cortisol levels are higher in the morning and is the best time for your immune system to handle the vaccine.
What to Expect After the Vaccine
Dr. Zwickey explained that if you feel ill after the second dose, it is a good sign your immune system is jumping into action and the vaccine may be more effective. Expect to feel fatigued for 1-2 days as well as possible fever, muscle aches, headache, etc. If you get ill after the first vaccine, it is possible you already have been infected by COVID-19 in the past and already have antibodies. That first dose essentially acted as a second dose (booster shot). Do you still need the second dose? Talk to your health care professional.
There are many considerations before deciding on whether to get a vaccine, when to get the vaccine, and how to prepare for the vaccination for the best response. There can be long lasting consequences and damage of a COVID-19 infection. Consider the risk of infection against the risk of the vaccine and gain confidence in your decision.
Note: This article does not cover all the considerations for making your decision on whether to take a vaccine. Please do your due diligence to make a proper decision for you.
Many of the facts noted came from a webinar with five functional medicine doctors explaining different aspects of COVID-19 and the vaccinations held on Feb 18, 2021 (Robert Luby, MD, James Carter Jr. MD, Patrick Hanaway, MD, Joel Evans, MD, Heather Zwickey MD).
The Institute for Functional Medicine
CDC Underlying Conditions Recommendations
Linda is passionate about educating the importance of food on our overall health bringing empowerment and good health to those willing to learn. Linda’s motto, “Attaining health one bite at a time,” is achieved through simplifying nutrition and healthy food preparation without sacrificing taste. Ask about personal plant-based cooking instruction and health consultations.
Thank you for a well thought out article, it is basically saying how I feel. I do not get the flu vaccine because of its efficacy rate, as well as I am healthy and not that worried about getting the flu. But the Covid vaccine is more effective, and I think we have to look at the bigger picture and do it for others, even if you feel safe. At first I was concerned about the rushing of the vaccine, but scientists know basics about vaccines and even this strain of vaccine from similar strains and have been studying for years. Everything has side effects so there will always be a few negative reactions. Honestly, I am more worried about the long term effects of getting the virus, more than the immediate disease, although I lost a close friend that was 40 and healthy, and know another young healthy person who was in ICU for over a week w Covid. I want to get back to whatever the new normal is, for socialization and for the economy. Thank you for sharing your advice and knowledge w us.
Jolene, thank you for commenting. I’m glad to hear others are thinking along the same lines. I’m very sorry to hear of your losses.
This is a well-researched and thoughtful article. Thank you.
Thank you Shirley
This is a great message Linda. As a former medical technologist and with some background on lab testing and virology, I believe in the science and the technology behind the development of these vaccines. But as you say, people’s bodies vary greatly and anyone with circumstances that could play into the risk/reward need to do further research.
I too plan to get the vaccine but because I’m retired and can control my exposure to the public, will wait until those who have to be out on a regular basis are taken care of.
Nancy, thank you for your thoughts.
Great article Linda, as always! Just FYI I received both doses of the Pfizer. After the first dose I had the common sore arm, no big deal. Felt like I had a good one armed workout. The second dose I had the same arm ache and also an odd headache. Came on like a full blown migraine for 10-15 min then gone. It repeated its self about 4 times. This was the day after my second shot. Nothing so severe to keep me down, just very different from any headache I ever had.
On another note. My daughter in law, a nurse at a hospital, received her second dose of Moderna and was sick on the couch with flu like symptoms the day after.
My question is do different vaccines have different side effects?
Robin, thank you for sharing your experience. The different vaccines will have their own side effects noted both on the CDC website as well as on this chart (second page) https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/covid-19-vaccines-in-phase-3-trials/