I just read an article by an immunocompromised physician published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). In this article, Dr. Lindsay Ryan, an ER physician who takes immunosuppressive medication to treat her auto-immune disease, describes her thoughts on folks who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She acknowledges the many possible reasons one might choose to avoid vaccination, many related to lack of scientific information and confusion by false information so widely spread on the internet. At the heart of her discussion lays a fundamental conflict, individual freedom vs responsibility to protect our neighbor. Dr. Ryan has been vaccinated but her immunosuppressant medication has significantly blunted her response to vaccination, leaving her unprotected by the vaccine. Therefore in her job as an ER physician she is constantly at risk for infection from an asymptomatic or symptomatic patient with any infectious disease including COVID-19. Beyond that, living a “normal life” will remain elusive for her as so many individuals continue to refuse vaccination based on a “freedom of choice” decision which places their own freedom over the interests of one’s neighbor. Many Americans are immuno-compromised. There are many medications that render the immune system less effective to various degrees. There are many conditions that compromise immune systems and render vaccination less effective. By definition, all patients who have received an organ transplant are immunocompromised. All such individuals are at increased risk of death or disability from COVID-19 exposure. The single most effective way to help protect these individuals is for everyone eligible to become vaccinated.
You can learn more about organ transplants by perusing organ transplant data for the USA. Your neighbor, the person you pass in the aisle of the grocery store, the person who is sitting in the restaurant at a table next to you, could be a transplant recipient or on an immunosuppressive drug for auto-immune disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 23.5 million Americans (more than seven percent of the population) suffer from an autoimmune disease—and the prevalence is rising.
Alternatively, they may be immunosuppressed because of chemotherapy for cancer.
How many people in the United States have cancer? More than 16.9 million Americans (8.1 million males and 8.8 million females) with a history of cancer were alive on January 1, 2019; this number is projected to reach more than 22.1 million by January 1, 2030 based on the growth and aging of the population alone.
If you choose to avoid vaccination as a form of personal freedom expression, is that choice a charitable or responsible choice? Does it balance personal freedom against responsibility for the health and safety of our neighbor? Are not immuno-compromised individuals entitled to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” and freedom from unnecessary risk exposure because of their neighbor’s personal choices?
We have laws against driving under the influence. Such laws seek a balance between personal freedom and responsibility towards one’s neighbor. As a society we have accepted restrictions on personal behavior that places others at risk and we have instituted laws to enforce such restrictions.
In the context of the COVID 19 pandemic I will close with the usual summary.
- Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
- Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
- Follow good sleep habits
- Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
- Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels. Supplement with Vitamin D3 to get your levels above 30 ng/ml. (read this Open Letter)
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
- Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
- Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.
- Eliminate refined-inflammatory “vegetable oils” from your diet, instead eat healthy fat.
- Clean up your home environment and minimize your family’s exposure to environmental toxins by following recommendations at EWG.org with regards to household products, personal care products, and organic foods. (https://www.ewg.org/)
- If you are over age 12 and eligible for vaccination, consider protecting yourself and your neighbor with vaccination.
THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.
Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.