Study Finds Eating Healthy Makes Your Vaccine More Effective

Study Finds Eating Healthy Makes Your Vaccine More Effective

  • January 21, 2021

With coronavirus vaccines being distributed nationwide, finally, we’re all breathing a collective, hopeful sigh of relief. There is light is at the end of the pandemic tunnel. So while we wait and look forward to our turn to roll up our sleeve, a new study just found that there is something real you can do to improve your chances of having the best results from getting vaccinated, and building the strongest antibodies when the vaccine enters your body.

A new study just published in Perspectives on Psychological Science titled “Psychological and Behavioral Predictors of Vaccine Efficacy: Considerations for COVID-19,” helps underscore the importance of eating a healthy diet, as it relates to the vaccine’s efficacy.

Healthy Eating Could Be Your Immune System’s Top Defense Against Virus

For their research, scientists at the Ohio State University (OSU) reviewed 49 vaccine studies in humans from the past 30 years that show how different conditions impact the body’s immune system. They discovered that stress, depression, and unhealthy lifestyle choices (smoking, eating junk food) can negatively affect the body’s immune response when exposed to vaccination. On the flip side, improving your health and making smart lifestyle decisions (eating a diet high in plant-based foods) can bolster our immune response to a vaccine.

“When we think of vaccine efficacy, we often think of the vaccine itself. My motivation was to draw attention to the fact that we [as subjects] bring important factors to the table as well — and those factors are modifiable,” says Annelise Madison, lead author of the paper, and a graduate student in clinical psychology at Ohio State, in a Science Daily statement.

“If we can address them now, when most of the world has yet to receive the vaccine, we have the chance to make our response to the vaccine quicker, more robust, and lasting,” she continues. In the study, the team at OSU noted that most people are not reacting to the pandemic stress with healthy habits, but are actually going the wrong direction, according to recent data that shows an increase in alcohol sales, more overeating (and higher sales of junk food), and a dip in daily physical activity, as recorded by those who wear Fitbits.

While the study does not suggest specific foods to eat to boost your immune response to the vaccine when it’s your turn to receive yours, it’s safe to say that junk foods, processed bags oof chips, boxes of crackers and cookies and, red meat that’s laden with saturated fat are not on the “healthier” diet list. So skip the cheeseburger and opt instead for a salad rich in plant-based foods and whole grains, of the quinoa and kale variety. The antioxidants and high-fiber content of a whole food plant-based approach will create a better host system to welcome the new antibodies into your immune arsenal.

Since what we eat and drink and how active we are impacts all aspects of our health and wellbeing, these are things that we can control (“modifiable,” as Madison calls them). We may not be able to choose how soon we get the vaccine, but until then, we are able to influence our body’s response when we get it.

A Plant-Based Diet Can Boost Immune Protections

While more research is needed to replicate these findings with regard to the new coronavirus vaccines, it’s well-known that a whole-food, plant-based diet can help protect and enhance immunity, to all viruses. Some doctors are urging people to go plant-based now, in light of coronavirus, and to improve their long-term health. From eating ‘shrooms to loading up on fiber, here are 11 tips to boost your immune system, and here are 15 immune-supportive foods to build your natural defenses and safeguard your health.

If “you are what you eat,” we’d like to be a rainbow-filled garden, metaphorically, with immune-bolstering superpowers, until the day we get that first inoculation. Our arms will be ready.

Get a Good Night's Sleep Before Your COVID Vaccine

Get a Good Night’s Sleep Before Your COVID Vaccine

  • January 20, 2021

By Robert Preidt


HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Want to get the most out of your COVID-19 vaccine? Make sure you get some good rest before you get your shot, sleep experts say.

That’s because adequate sleep is an important factor in a strong immune system.

“As COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, it is of utmost importance that patients continue to prioritize their sleep to maintain optimal health,” American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) president Dr. Kannan Ramar said in an academy news release. “Getting sufficient, high-quality sleep on a regular basis strengthens your body’s immune system and optimizes your response to a vaccine.”

Several studies have found an association between sleep and vaccination response. For example, a 2020 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that flu vaccines appear to be more effective in people who get a sufficient amount of sleep during the two nights prior to receiving the shot. Other studies have reported similar findings about patients’ response to vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Dr. Khurshid Khurshid is director of the UMMHC/UMMS Center for Neuromodulation at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Westborough, Mass. He said, “The role of sleep in boosting innate and acquired immune response is significant. All people, particularly health workers, should be aware of the immunity-boosting effects of sleep. Studies have shown that normal sleep after vaccination strengthens the immune response against an invading antigen, and this immunity-boosting effect of sleep is clinically significant.”

So, Khurshid added in the news release, “A good night’s sleep before and after vaccination could be very advantageous.”

Most adults should sleep at least seven hours a night, but the COVID-19 pandemic has harmed many Americans’ sleep, a recent AASM survey found.

One-third of respondents said their sleep quality has been affected, 30% have had changes in their ability to fall asleep, and 29% reported an impact on their nightly amount of sleep.

The AASM offered tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Establish a bedtime and morning routine. Use the bedroom only for sleeping, not watching TV or reading. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and a bit cool.
  • Restrict blue light exposure before bed by turning off your TV and other electronic devices 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Silence notifications and charge your devices away from your bed so you’re not tempted to look at social media or news alerts.
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine and large meals before bedtime. If you’re hungry after dinner, limit yourself to small, sugar-free and easily digestible snacks to avoid disrupting sleep.


Continued




More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 vaccines.


SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release



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COVID-19 cross-protection? When vaccines provide 'bonus' protection against other diseases

COVID-19 cross-protection? When vaccines provide ‘bonus’ protection against other diseases

  • January 19, 2021

Those of us who avoided COVID-19 over the past year may be somewhat surprised to learn there’s a good chance we’ve already been infected by at least one coronavirus.

They’re thought to be behind up to a third of all common colds. And intriguingly, evidence emerged last year that suggested people who were previously exposed to a common cold coronavirus might have some protection against COVID-19.

So could this cross-protection go the other way? Might the COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out now also cause a dip in seasonal coronaviruses?

While it’s too early to tell, it’s possible. But perhaps not in the way you’d think.

How colds may boost COVID-19 immunity

First, it’s worth looking at how vaccines generate an immune response, and how they compare to real infections.

Vaccines use parts of viruses or bacteria to train what’s called our adaptive immune system.

This part of our immune system protects us against specific microbes. It primarily involves molecules, called antibodies, that neutralise an invading pathogen.

In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, antibodies are made against the virus’s spike protein, which the virus uses to worm its way into our cells.

Your body needs quite a lot of energy to manufacture antibodies, so — ideally — vaccines also establish a few pathogen-specific immune cells called memory T cells and B cells that hang around long after the initial burst of antibodies has waned.

If a pathogen shows up again, T and B cells spring into action, once again churning out antibodies and eliminating infected cells.

When it comes to contracting an actual coronavirus infection, your body produces an immune response to many parts of the virus — not just its spike proteins.

For instance, they might also produce antibodies against other proteins embedded in the coronavirus’s fatty protective layer.

This means that if another coronavirus — perhaps SARS-CoV-2 — shares these proteins, you might have some level of immunity against it as well.

Might COVID vaccines protect against other coronaviruses?

If they do, it’s unlikely that antibodies generated by jabs will play a role, says Kirsty Short, a virologist at the University of Queensland.

A non-COVID coronavirus would need spike proteins to be incredibly similar to those on SARS-CoV-2 for antibodies to recognise and destroy them.

Antibodies latch onto viruses like a lock and key. If the virus protein key is the wrong size or shape for the antibody lock, nothing happens.

But there is a chance that T cell immunity might step up against other coronaviruses. That’s because for them, the shape of a viral protein isn’t quite as important. They recognise smaller bits of viral proteins in the form of short chains of amino acids, or linear peptides.

“Some of those peptides are shared between seasonal coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2,” Dr Short says.

And while measuring antibody levels from a blood test is relatively straightforward, it’s not as easy to find out what T cells get up to after a COVID-19 jab.

“In terms of T cell responses, they become a little bit more complex,” Dr Short says.

“The type of peptides that my T cells present to the immune system are going to be different to the type of peptides that your T cells will present.

“That just relates to individual genetic differences.”

Shoring up our first line of defence

There is another way vaccines can boost our immune response against other diseases.

The adaptive immune system is just one part of our immune system. We also have our innate immune system.

It’s our first line of immune defence and responds faster than the adaptive immune system, but it doesn’t target specific pathogens. It goes for all of them.

So if you scrape your knee, your innate immune system quickly produces molecules and recruits and activates immune cells to the area to destroy any bacteria or viruses in the wound.

And for a long time, researchers thought immune system memory, involving B and T cells, was solely part of the adaptive immune system.

But in recent years, scientists have found our innate immune system also has an element of memory.

This is called “trained immunity“, and some vaccines trigger this memory response, Dr Short says.

“Mostly, it’s live vaccines that seem to do it, like the MMR vaccine and live polio vaccine.”

It’s a concept being explored by Nigel Curtis, paediatric infectious diseases physician and scientist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

He and his team are running an international clinical trial to determine if the tuberculosis vaccine — called Bacillus Calmette-Guérin or BCG — can help protect against severe COVID-19 in healthcare workers.

The BCG vaccine contains live but weakened bacteria that stimulate the immune system, but without causing disease.

A hand in a blue glove holding a small brown vial
The BCG vaccine was developed from a bacterium called Mycobacterium bovis, which is similar to the bug that causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.(ABC News)

While it helps prevent tuberculosis, it also protects against a wide range of other diseases.

And it’s only in the past decade that immunologists have unpicked some of the mechanisms behind it.

Very simply, the BCG vaccine induces metabolic changes in some of the cells involved in the innate immune system, and this affects how they express certain genes.

Overall, it means your innate immune response better deals with any subsequent infections, Professor Curtis says.

“The idea is that you have BCG, and you induce these changes, then when you get infected with SARS-CoV-2, your response to that virus or any virus — because it’s completely agnostic to pathogen — is stronger than it would be in someone who hadn’t previously had BCG.”

Because it’s a general enhancement, it’s not technically cross-protection, and the BCG vaccine should not considered a replacement for COVID-19 vaccines, he adds.

Instead, it’s something that may stop you from becoming severely ill, should you be infected.

The goal of the work is to pinpoint the specific compounds that induce trained immunity.

“What we want to do is find out exactly what those key components are and, once we do that, we can make something that’s perhaps better than BCG — something you’d give to everybody to induce a better immune response early or even later on in life,” Professor Curtis says.

Cross-protection and HPV

One vaccine that granted some cross-protection was the human papillomavirus or HPV jab.

Of the more-than-200 HPV strains, around 40 are sexually transmitted. Two of those strains, 16 and 18, cause more than 70 per cent of cervical cancers worldwide.

Australia kicked off its HPV vaccination program in 2007 with the Gardasil vaccine, which vaccinated against types 16 and 18, as well as 6 and 11 — strains that don’t cause cancer, but are responsible for around 90 per cent of genital warts.

Suzanne Garland, a clinical microbiologist, sexual health physician and director of the Women’s Centre for Infectious Diseases in Melbourne, led a team that assessed HPV prevalence in Australian women eight years after the rollout started.

As well as finding Gardasil prevented HPV 16 and 18 infection, they also found vaccinated women were far less likely to be infected by a further three cancer-causing HPV strains when compared to unvaccinated counterparts.

Those additional strains were genetically similar to those targeted by the vaccine. Types 31 and 33 were much like 16, while 45 was close to 18.

Professor Garland calls this cross-protection a “bonus”, but why it happened in some women and not others isn’t clear.

The latest generation HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, covers nine high-risk strains — including 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45 — which are responsible for 93 per cent of cervical cancers.

It was only introduced to the National Immunisation Program in 2018, “so it’s important that women who were vaccinated as schoolgirls have regular cervical screenings, because … you’re still at risk of infection and disease for the types not covered by the vaccine”, Professor Garland says.

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve had the virus?

Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I’ve had the virus?

  • January 19, 2021

It’s a question that has no doubt crossed our minds especially in recent weeks, with the start of COVID-19 vaccination rollout: Do I need to get vaccinated if I’ve already had the virus?

And the answer is: Yes.

Regardless of previous infection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who have had the COVID-19 virus should plan on getting vaccinated when it’s their turn.

“It’s a pretty straightforward question,” said Johns Hopkins infectious disease specialist Dr. Amesh Adalja. “Yes, you need to get vaccinated.”

After someone recovers, their immune system should keep them from getting sick again right away.

“Your immune system is able to identify the virus, and protect itself,” said Dr. Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University.

Scientists still don’t know exactly how long this immunity lasts or how strong it is, though recent research suggests the protection could last for several months.

It’s impossible to know how long a person might be immune, said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, an infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine. “There’s no way to calculate that.”

Vaccines, by contrast, are designed to bring about a more consistent and optimal immune response. And they should boost whatever preexisting immunity a person might have from an infection, experts say.

“Since we’re in this pandemic, and don’t have a handle on it, the safer approach is to vaccinate,” Kulkarni said. “You don’t lose anything and you stand to benefit.”

If you’ve been infected in the last three months, the CDC says it’s OK to delay vaccination if you want to let others go first while supplies are limited.

“All things being equal you would want the person with no protection to go first,” Adalja said.

Study: Clinical, laboratory, and temporal predictors of neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 among COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor candidates. Image Credit: Cryptographer / Shutterstock

Study predicts good passive immunotherapy donors to combat COVID-19

  • January 19, 2021

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), continues to spread worldwide. Since the virus first emerged in late-2019, over 95.55 million cases and more than 2 million deaths have been reported.

Study: Clinical, laboratory, and temporal predictors of neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 among COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor candidates. Image Credit: Cryptographer / Shutterstock

Many countries have commenced targeted vaccination efforts to control the spread of the virus and immunize vulnerable groups. However, vaccine rollout may still lag behind ongoing infections, as fast-spreading new variants threaten many countries. Finding an effective therapy to help patients fight the infection remains crucial.

Passive immunotherapy treatment, wherein SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) from the plasma of recovered patients are administered to acutely sick patients, is a promising method for COVID-19 treatment in severe cases.

A team of researchers at the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the National Institute of Health, USA, recently studied the neutralizing antibodies from patients recovering from COVID-19 to investigate which clinical factors predict good passive immunotherapy donors.

In the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the research team measured SARS-CoV-2-nAb titers in the plasma of 250 people with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Convalescent plasma

In the USA, convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients was approved under emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on August 23, 2020. This mode of therapy uses antibody-containing blood from recovered individuals to help promote passive immunity in severely ill patients still battling the infection.

Blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 is processed to remove blood cells, leaving behind the plasma and neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

The plasma given to severely ill patients will help boost the body’s immune system. In a recent phase II clinical trial in Argentina, scientists found that convalescent plasma with high levels of neutralizing antibodies, particularly when given early in the infection, had a marked beneficial health impact.

Yet, not all SARS-CoV-2-infected people produce a strong neutralizing antibody response. Hence, convalescent plasma from donors should be screened for SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibody activity to make sure the recovered patients are suitable donors.

The study

In the current study, the researchers tested the serum of 250 potential convalescent plasma donors with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein S1 domain, nucleoprotein (NP), and for neutralizing antibodies.

The team found that among the participants, 97 percent were seropositive on one or more assays. About 60 percent of the donors had nAb titers. The correlates of higher nAb titer included old age, male, and severity of the illness. Also, patients with more severe COVID-19 symptoms, like the difficulty of breathing and fever, had higher levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Moreover, a longer period between the infection and antibody screening had decreased nAb titers. The study results showed that severe COVID-19 illness produces higher levels of antibodies than less severe illness. This also means that the neutralizing antibodies in the blood of recovered patients wane over time.

COVID-19 seems to be one of a group of infections where the sicker one is, and presumably the more virus and therefore the more antigen that is around, the higher the levels of antibody,” Dr. David Koelle of the Koelle Laboratory, University of Washington, said in a statement.

He explained that the potential cause of this discrepancy is that the immune system in people who had a severe illness, was not effective in stopping it. There is a probable temporal race between the proliferation of the virus and host adaptive immunity.

The researchers concluded that nAb titers correlated with disease severity, sex, and age. Also, they suggested that commercially available SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G (IgG) results can become an alternative for nAb testing.

Functional nAb levels were found to decline and a small proportion of persons recovered from COVID-19 lack adaptive immune responses,” they added.

Source:

Journal reference:

Gritstone adds COVID-19 to the pipeline with NIAID-supported vaccine

Gritstone adds COVID-19 to the pipeline with NIAID-supported vaccine

  • January 19, 2021

Gritstone Oncology, the biotech working on cancer vaccines based on traditional infectious disease immunology, is bringing that approach back to its roots. It’s working on a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that could also work against other viruses in this family in the case of a future pandemic.

The company is developing the vaccine alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided a grant to bankroll preclinical work, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which will carry out a phase 1 study through the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium.

RELATED: Looking beyond COVID-19’s spike protein for the next wave of vaccines

The vaccine is based on Gritstone’s EDGE technology—which uses machine learning to predict antigens presented by tumor cells or cells infected by a virus that the immune system can see—and work out of the La Jolla Institute of Immunology, which has studied hundreds of patients recovering from COVID-19. Under a license agreement with La Jolla, Gritstone has access to epitopes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus—a part of the virus to which antibodies bind—identified in its studies.

Like the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines, Gritstone’s candidate targets the spike protein of the new coronavirus, but it also contains other targets that could help boost T-cell immunity.

“Gritstone’s vaccine may provide more comprehensive viral protection by inducing a better combination of T cell responses and neutralizing antibodies as compared to the currently available vaccines,” said Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., director of Saint Louis University’s Center for Vaccine Development and Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology, National Vaccine Advisory Committee member, and protocol chair and lead principal investigator of Gritstone’s COVID-19 study, in a statement.

“It is important that we move forward with developing these next generation vaccines because we do not yet know whether the existing vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization will provide long-term immunity or prevent transmission. Improved vaccines that can accomplish these additional benefits may be needed to continue mitigating the ongoing pandemic,” Hoft added.

RELATED: Fierce JPM Week: Vaccines aren’t enough. We need more COVID-19 treatments, too

Besides potentially provoking a stronger immune response than the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines does, a new vaccine aimed at targets beyond the spike protein could come in handy in the face of new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

What’s more, Gritstone hopes this approach could make the vaccine useful against other coronaviruses as well as the one that causes COVID-19.

“As well as a potential role in protection against SARS-CoV-2, the notion of using evolutionarily conserved viral antigens (in addition to Spike) as the basis for a vaccine that induces antibody and T-cell responses to provide protection against future coronavirus pandemics is an exciting concept that springs from our current work. We plan to pursue this in 2021,” said Karin Jooss, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of Gritstone.

The covid vaccine is good but the people must decide – Part 2

The covid vaccine is good but the people must decide – Part 2

  • January 18, 2021

Continuing from Part 1.

What about reports that these vaccines don’t prevent transmission? In general, some vaccines are more effective at reducing the severity of a disease than reducing its transmission. While it is unclear at present whether these vaccines reduce transmission, that should not concern a vulnerable person who will presumably receive at least some personal protection from the disease.

Each of these vaccines has its own safety profile. Data from CDC shows 21 cases of anaphylaxis out of 1,893,360 people who received first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The chance of allergic reactions from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is said to be about 8.5 times higher than comparable risk from the seasonal flu vaccine but these are all extremely small. Some of the vaccines cause short-term side-effects, including severe pain and swelling but once again, most of these effects are rare and the person generally recovers within 12 hours. Proper training of those who administer the vaccine is essential to monitor these side effects.

Third, those who have had covid don’t need to rush for the vaccine

Those who have had covid have developed natural immunity. Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington in Seattle has confirmed on 5 December 2020 in the New York Times that: “We didn’t see anybody who didn’t develop some sort of an immune response…. I don’t think those people need to rush out and go get the vaccine in the same way that people who are highly susceptible really do”.

It must be emphasised that there is no harm, in principle, in taking a vaccine even if one has had covid and recovered. For instance, we take a flu shot to boost our immune system even though we might have already recovered from the flu. As Dr Pepper says: “There’s nothing deleterious about getting a boost to an immune response that you’ve had before. You could get an actually even better immune response by boosting whatever immunity you had from the first infection by a vaccine”. In this context it is currently unclear whether covid vaccines provide better immunity than our natural immune response.

Fourth, some age groups can benefit from the vaccine

Who are the “highly susceptible” that Dr Pepper refers to? We have long known the aged-based risk profile of this virus, as I discussed on 6 March 2020. But data are clearer now. On 30 December 2020 I wrote in The Australian that “Since 80 per cent of COVID deaths in Sweden have occurred among those over 75, people in this age group should continue to be sheltered and offered the vaccine. To mandate it for others would be yet another display of intellectual and spiritual cowardice”. (Of course, it should not be mandated for any category.) Since males are more vulnerable than females, males above 65 might consider taking the vaccine.

A complication has recently emerged. On 16 January 2021, it was reported that “Norwegian Medicines Agency links 13 deaths to vaccine side effects. Those who died were frail and old”. Steinar Madsen at the Norwegian Medicines Agency said that: “If you are very frail, you should probably not be vaccinated.” This throws the spanner in the works for the main group of people who would benefit. They might need to wait to better assess the situation.

Those below 75 (or 65 for males) who have not had the disease should probably consider the vaccine at this stage only if they have significant co-morbidities. I am 61 without any co-morbidities but probably have a low level of cross-reactivity. I might therefore benefit from the vaccine but I intend to monitor the vaccine side effects for a few more months.

As for my father in India who is almost 89 years old, he has two choices: he can either roll the dice and take the vaccine as soon as it becomes available even though he is otherwise healthy and likely to beat the virus if he gets it, or he can continue to isolate and wait a few more months to watch the data.

Fifth, these vaccines must not be mandated

Except in the case of an extremely lethal virus like smallpox which can be physically eradicated from planet Earth with concerted effort (and has been so eradicated), all other vaccines must always be voluntary. People must know why they need the vaccine and must be given all relevant information to make a decision.

If any government mandates covid vaccines they would be in breach of a number of international laws. For example, Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights states that “Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information”. A vaccine is a therapeutic medical intervention and requires consent.

Clause 58 of the Siracusa Principles prevents governments from medical or scientific experimentation without free consent. These vaccines are currently experimental, not having received full approval. Therefore, any mandate for a covid vaccine will be unlawful on this ground as well.

The Nuremberg Code requires that human experiments should be based on previous animal experimentation. In this case animal tests have not been conducted for most vaccines.

Sixth, people have the right to sue vaccine companies

Unlike in many other countries, vaccine manufacturers are not exempt in India from liability for any harms their vaccines might cause. Our party wants this to continue and will strongly oppose any change to this policy.

While the covid vaccine is likely to prove to be a boon, Swarna Bharat Party will oppose any attempts to mandate it, including for those who visit India such as tourists and business travellers.

We also want the Modi Government to provide full details to the people including the weaknesses of current vaccine studies and the honest disclosure of side-effects. The people can then decide for themselves.

 



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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2 mental health practices may give the Covid-19 vaccine a boost

2 mental health practices may give the Covid-19 vaccine a boost

  • January 17, 2021

The Covid-19 vaccination rollout is underway with demand outpacing availability. With millions in line for the vaccine, experts offer advice to consider during the wait: prioritize your mental health.

In a recent preprint (not peer-reviewed) report, researchers argue stress, depression, loneliness, and poor health behaviors may impair the immune system’s response to vaccines. Poor mental health, it’s suggested, may be a risk factor for delayed immune response to the vaccine and can potentially shorten the duration of immunity.

This claim has not been tested in individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 but is based on 30 years of studies documenting the impact of psychological factors on the immune system’s vaccine response. The preprint is accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Senior author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser is the director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine. She tells Inverse previous research, including studies conducted on how stress changes the body’s response to the hepatitis B vaccine, suggests “people who are more stressed and more anxious might take longer to respond to the vaccines” for coronavirus, too.

This is not to say people won’t be protected from the Covid-19 vaccines — they will be. Instead, it’s about protecting one’s mental health in an effort to maximize the vaccines’ effectiveness. Individuals can take concrete, meaningful steps to ensure their immune system is operating at peak performance before vaccination.

Mental health and immunity — After vaccination, the body launches an innate, general immune response to a potential biological threat. Part of this response involves the production of antibodies, and the continued production of antibodies indicates how effectively a vaccine protects you over time.

Poor mental health may influence the body’s immunological response, explains Fulvio D’Acquisto, a professor of immunology and the University of Roehampton. He was not involved in the new report. His work suggests the cellular composition of our immune system responds “to every positive and negative feeling or emotional experience” — like laughing, crying, or being in love.

“I’m going to be getting my vaccine next week and I’m going to be doing both of those things.”

But while there appears to be this link between the mind and immune system, scientists are still in the early stages of recognizing why it can play a role in the immune system’s response to a vaccine.

A potential explanation, explains Annelise Madison, are the neuroendocrine changes associated with chronic stress and depression. Madison is a Ph.D. candidate at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and a co-author of the report. Neuroendocrine describes cells that release hormones in response to the stimulation of the nervous system.

Kalil Alves de Lima, a post-doctoral researcher at Washington University who studies how the immune system affects mind and body and was not a part of the report, adds that in the past decade several “beautiful studies” have demonstrated reciprocal interactions between the immune and the central nervous systems. He tells Inverse it’s fair to say poor mental health may negatively influence the body’s reaction to the vaccine.

“For this unusual time that we are all experiencing, it is more important than ever to relieve any extra anxiety or stress,” Alves de Lima says. “It will help us to keep not only our mental health, but it will certainly provide the extra boost that our immune system needs to mount the best possible response to beat Covid-19.”

Studies suggest stress, depression, lack of social support, sedentariness, a bad diet, and poor sleep can “independently and synergistically promote a suboptimal immune response to the vaccine,” Madison tells Inverse. Poor mental health is one factor associated with a poorer immune response, she says.

“As you can imagine, these risk factors can start to compound and interact with one another,” Madison says. “For instance, a person with severe depression is likely to be sedentary, eat foods that are high in fat and sugar, and withdraw from their social circle, which all can hamper immune function.”

Mental health and vaccine effectiveness — The risk of the Covid-19 vaccine not working is low, Madison explains. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have an efficacy rate of about 95 percent. But efficacy is a measurement of performance in controlled circumstances, while effectiveness is what’s seen in real-world conditions.

The vaccine’s effectiveness might prove a bit lower — which is normal, expected, and nothing to be worried about.

“Individuals should be aware that their mental and physical health can impact their side effect profile, how long it takes to develop immunity, and how long the immunity lasts,” Madison says.

Future studies are necessary to confirm this in Covid-19 vaccine recipients. In the meantime, history can offer some insight. In Kiecolt-Glaser’s 1992 study on the hepatitis B vaccine, the jab was shown to be 90 percent effective against the disease, but the study participants “who were more stressed and anxious took significantly longer to develop a protective antibody response.”

It’s also a matter of how long the immune response lasts. In an evaluation of individuals receiving a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine that Kiecolt-Glaser and colleagues published in 2000, they found groups classified as spousal caregivers and non-caregivers both responded initially, and equally, to the vaccine. But six months later, the non-caregivers were maintaining their protective level of antibodies, while the antibodies of the caregivers diminished.

What you can do — Minimizing stress during a pandemic, Madison acknowledges, is a hard ask. “An important consideration is that these risk factors for a suboptimal vaccine response are, ironically, more prevalent now during the pandemic than they were before the pandemic, she says.

And D’Aquisto, the immunology professor, is careful to note people who experience mental health issues are at no risk of the vaccine not working.

“What the study is really saying is that vaccination is not a ‘passive’ experience for the person that receives it,” D’Aquisto says.

In other words, there are actionable steps you can take to positively influence your mental health, and in turn, your immune response. Even relatively modest changes, the report argues, can help. These include:

  • Getting a good night’s sleep before and after vaccination
  • Vigorously exercising within 24 hours before the shot

“I’m going to be getting my vaccine next week,” Kiecolt-Glaser says, “and I’m going to be doing both of those things.”

Immune System Studies Help Answer Questions About COVID-19 Vaccine

Immune System Studies Help Answer Questions About COVID-19 Vaccine

  • January 17, 2021
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, three big questions remain. First, can someone who has been vaccinated still spread the disease? Second, will the vaccine remain effective as the virus itself evolves? And third, how long will the vaccine last? NPR’s Richard Harris says immunologists are hard at work getting the answers.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Let’s start with the first question about whether people who are vaccinated can still spread the disease. Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington, says that’s not just an open question for this vaccine, but for vaccines in general.

MARION PEPPER: It’s hard to say because we’re constantly being bombarded by different pathogens, and we don’t know when our immune system is responding.

HARRIS: We may have infections that don’t make us sick, so we never know about them, but we could be spreading disease. Michel Nussenzwei, a Howard Hughes investigator at the Rockefeller University, says it’s possible that your immune system won’t completely prevent the virus from starting to multiply inside you after an infection.

MICHEL NUSSENZWEI: Spreading it is really a function of how much virus you’re producing.

HARRIS: If your immune system ramps up quickly enough, that could prevent a virus from starting to multiply.

NUSSENZWEI: It’s a bit of a race between the immune system and the virus.

HARRIS: It seems likely the vaccine will prevent you from spreading significant amounts of virus, but scientists are still trying to nail that down. The second question about whether the vaccine will remain effective even as the virus evolves is harder to answer. Scientists aren’t concerned about the current mutations. And longer term, Pepper says your immune system does have ways to adapt.

PEPPER: Even though everyone is obviously concerned about a virus evolving, your memory B cell responsiveness also evolves over time.

HARRIS: Memory B cells remember an infection and help your immune system produce antibodies. And they don’t just remember viruses they’ve encountered. Remarkably, they can generate antibodies that have random changes in them, and those can help defend against a new strain of virus.

PEPPER: It’s pretty much the only time in the body where a mature cell introduces mutations intentionally into the DNA.

HARRIS: Clearly, there are viruses that can evade this clever system, which is why you need a new flu shot every year. For COVID, we’ll have to wait and see. Finally is the question of how long a vaccine will last. Stephen Jameson at the University of Minnesota Medical School says, in some instances, your immune system can have a very long memory.

STEPHEN JAMESON: Some kind of natural infections, it can give you lifelong immunity. You only get it once. You’re protected for the rest of your life.

HARRIS: Vaccines mimic a natural infection to trigger an immune response, but they may require a boost to keep that immunity strong. That depends on the nature of the infection. In the case of people with COVID-19, there’s already evidence that immunity will last for many months, but beyond that is an open question.

JAMESON: The good thing is that there would be the opportunity that if turned out there was some waning of immune response, then like many other vaccines, maybe there would have to be another booster. Maybe you get another booster after a year or something.

HARRIS: These questions reflect how much scientists have come to understand about our immune system in recent years. Marion Pepper says COVID is also illuminating what we still don’t know about how the immune system defends us from viruses.

PEPPER: It’s been really interesting to watch this unfold in real time ’cause we’re learning so much about this virus and the immune response to it in a way that we’ve never done previously.

HARRIS: I asked Michel Nussenzwei another big-picture question.

Are we going to be saved by our immune system?

NUSSENZWEI: Yes, we are for sure.

HARRIS: Richard Harris, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Get COVID-19 Vaccine As Soon As You’re Allowed, Experts Urge

Get COVID-19 Vaccine As Soon As You’re Allowed, Experts Urge

  • January 16, 2021

COVID-19’s record surges along with the discovery of more contagious variants of the coronavirus make getting as many people vaccinated as soon as possible critical for ending the pandemic.

“Every time the virus multiplies in a body, there is a chance for mutation,” said Stuart Cohen, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of hospital epidemiology and infection control at UC Davis Health. “If it doesn’t have people to go into, there will be no mutations.”

Cohen spoke Thursday (Jan. 14) on a UC Davis LIVE program about COVID-19 vaccines. His hope is that enough people will get vaccinated and that we will reach a level of herd immunity relatively soon — possibly within the coming months or by the end of the year — so the coronavirus won’t be able to keep mutating.

“If enough people get vaccinated, the virus stops circulating,” Cohen said. “It’s cutoff and doesn’t have people to go into, so no mutations develop.”

If it does continue to mutate, Cohen worries the virus might eventually create a variant that can evade the vaccine.

“If we slowly, slowly roll out the vaccine, that’s the perfect way to generate mutants,” he said, because vaccine-resistant variants will have a survival advantage and could multiply. “If we get people vaccinated quickly, then we have a fighting chance to stop it.”

Vaccines effective and safe

Cohen and Stephen McSorley, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases at UC Davis, both said that everything they know about the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines shows both are effective and safe.

Clinical trials showed both vaccines are about 95 percent effective, and though some people have a day or two of reactions, the vaccines are safe. But both men said they worry about some people’s hesitancy to get vaccinated, or worse, about anti-vaccination activists spreading misinformation.

“I’m old enough, I had classmates with polio,” Cohen said. “The herd immunity we have now from polio or measles or other diseases is from vaccinations, and it’s what allows people who don’t believe in vaccines to get away with it.”

McSorley said the COVID-19 vaccines have a slightly different design, but work the way all vaccines work.

“They try to fool your immune system into thinking you’ve had this infection before,” he said. “Your body has the capacity to respond to any infection. If an alien race came from outer space with a pathogen, you actually have the ability to respond to that.”

But often our immune systems need to be taught how to do that. That’s what the COVID-19 vaccines do. They teach our bodies to make more of the cells that recognize the infection, and teach them how to find it and how to combat it, McSorley said.

The COVID-19 vaccines use a system that started to be developed during the 2003 SARS outbreak. It injects us with messenger RNA, or mRNA, which is natural in our bodies. The mRNA teaches our cells to build the spike protein on the coronavirus. “Your immune system responds to that, and now it’s ready to respond to the coronavirus,” McSorley said.

Q&A highlights

  • The vaccines require two doses, and both scientists urged people to get both shots on the prescribed schedule that came out of the clinical trials — which is 21 days apart for the Pfizer vaccines and 28 days for Moderna’s. “The second dose will always boost the immune response,” McSorley said.
  • Are the 21-day and 28-day intervals totally fixed? Can you wait longer? “I don’t know the answer,” Cohen said. “But I do know the best way to take it is the way it’s been studied. Freelancing is not a good idea.”
  • Some immunity starts 10 to 14 days after the first dose, but full immunity appears seven to 14 days after the second, according to the studies. “If you get just one shot,” Cohen said, “we don’t know how long the immune response will last or if one dose will even do anybody any good.”
  • Pfizer’s vaccine was shown effective in lab studies against the newest variants. Although Moderna’s vaccine has not been studied, it is likely equally effective. “The vaccines are very similar,” Cohen said. “There is no reason to think Moderna’s would be any different with the variant.”
  • It’s unclear if the vaccines actually prevent us from getting infected with COVID-19 or if a vaccinated person can spread the virus. That’s why masking and social distancing are still crucial. “Many of us believe the vaccine prevents infection. That’s how other vaccines work. We just don’t have data for that yet,” Cohen said. “We do know it keeps people from getting sick.” McSorley added: “The studies were designed to keep people out of the hospital. They weren’t studying whether you can spread infection. That’s coming.”

Other advice

Among other advice from McSorley and Cohen: It’s OK to get vaccinated if you have a cold (though if you’re feeling lousy, you might want to wait). People who’ve had COVID-19 still should get vaccinated, but it’s best to wait until 90 after all symptoms are gone. Don’t worry about which vaccine you get. They are too much alike. 

“People ask whether I would choose to take the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine,” Cohen said. “I say, ‘I’ll take the one they have. Whichever comes first.’ The only thing to know is, get vaccinated.”

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