Researcher says improving your immune system could limit reaction to COVID-19 vaccine

Understanding Covid-19 vaccine side effects
Understanding Covid-19 vaccine side effects
Updated: Dec. 29, 2020 at 7:56 PM EST
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MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WWBT) - Researchers with the Virginia Research Center in Midlothian, which has been a trial site for the Phase-3 Pfizer Vaccine trials say that since the vaccines were approved for emergency use authorization by the FDA, more than 2 million Americans have already received the vaccine with no serious reactions.

Dr. Aaron Hartman, who has overseen much of the vaccinations at the trial site, says when side effects do occur, they are typically minor and develop after receiving the second dose of either vaccine once the immune system begins to produce antibodies.

“How many people get a flu shot and react to it? a fair number of people. How many people get the shingles vaccine and have a reaction to it a fair number of people,” Hartman said. “20 to 25 percent of people have minor symptoms their arm hurts, they have some aches, they have a low-grade fever, and there fine in three days.”

Hartman says side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccine stem from one of two things: a direct reaction which is a result of the ingredients of the vaccine, or a response from our immune system. He says that while there have been reports of more severe anaphylactic reactions to the vaccine, they are extremely rare and typically occur in people who have a history of allergic reactions.

“It appears that what we’re seeing with the Moderna vaccine is an immunological reaction where people’s immune systems are responding to something in the vaccine,” Hatman said. “The initial grouping of people that were having reactions to the vaccine were those who had a history of allergies, but as it’s being rolled out, we’re seeing some of those with people who don’t appear to have a history with that, but it’s still an immunological response.”

Hartman says our response to the vaccine has a lot to do with our immune system health and having a balanced immune system could play a part in how well we respond to the vaccine and what side effects we may experience.

“The bigger take home for a picture for me is these chemicals in our environment that irritate the immune system that set us up for reaction and when we have a new vaccine, it might somehow relate with that, but we don’t have a one-to-one correlation,” Hartman said.

One of the chemicals Hartman says he and other researchers are looking into is a compound known as polyethylene glycol or PEG which is found in a variety of products from skin and hair care to soft drinks. Hartman says a small percentage of the population has antibodies to fight PEG’s which are also present in the Pfizer vaccine.

“We don’t quite know yet clinically how it relates to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Hartman said, “The incidents of side-effects are still really low, but environmental chemicals and things we expose ourselves to every day can affect our immune system and this might be one of the many examples where we’re seeing more autoimmune issues and more allergies.” Hartman says diet and exercise are just some of the ways we improve our immune system health and how it responds to things like the COVID-19 vaccine “Getting our basic nutrient deficiencies that are so common has a massive impact on your risk for infections cancers and reactions to things like virus’s cancer, dust, mold and now this vaccine, Hartman said. “We don’t want to lose sight of the simple things anybody can do the over-focus on the vaccine which is a little far out for most of us.”

Hartman says currently, it’s still too early to compare which vaccines people are more prone to develop side effects from because the Moderna vaccine has not been administered as much as the Pfizer vaccine has but adds since both are delivered in a similar way the side effects between the two are very similar.

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