IHF Community Corner

Dr. Eigen reviews questions from the community about everything related to medical debt and medical bills and provides feedback based on his expertise as a physician leader. If you have a question that you would like Dr. Eigen to address, please submit the question through this email: info@indianahealthfund.org

Happy New Year!!! For this month’s blog, Dr. Eigen has prepared a response to the COVID 19 pandemic:

Covid has been a very serious disease and for the lay person a difficult one on which to get accurate information. The vaccine has been mis- characterized from the start. The original studies of the vaccine were specifically designed to study if the vaccine would mitigate the severity of the disease, not whether it could or would prevent infection with the virus. This is clearly stated in the paper and I recently verified it, in person, with the leader of the Pfizer study. The information to the public has continually implied that the immunization would reduce the rate of infection using such terms as “breakthrough” infection and “vaccine” without explaining that the two original vaccinations (Pfizer and Moderna) were never designed nor tested to see if they changed the rate of infection. There is no reasonable evidence that it has a meaningful effect on viral transmission,

Mandates from the government were implemented that seemed sensible, but were not backed by data to show effectiveness, (such as social distancing, mask wearing and limiting crowd exposure). Many early studies showed that these were not especially effective in reducing infection rates though many others showed them to be effective. Depending on what you read you could get totally different views of the benefit of these measures. The result has been confusion and decisions and mandates based on little more than guesswork.

What do we know at this time?
The disease has changed greatly from that caused by the original virus. It is clearly less dangerous to the majority of the population. It can make you ill but is less likely to be life threatening than infection caused by the original virus strain. The vaccine works well and should be obtained by each of us as an initial 2 dose series. The boosters improve the coverage of the vaccine against recent mutations. But it is clear that the protection of the recent boosters to recent strains of the virus does not last as long as the earlier vaccines. So the benefit is limited and short lasting.

An Israeli study found that antibody levels after a fourth dose of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine returned to similar levels as after the 3rd dose after about four months. That is, it was effective for 4 months. The study, conducted among health care workers at the Sheba Medical Center, found that the immunological protection of the 4th dose “was much smaller and had waned completely by 13 weeks after vaccination.” It found “no substantial additional effectiveness over a third dose at 15
to 26 weeks after vaccination.”

How many boosters should we get?

That is an unanswered question, and the answer will change with changes in the virus and our individual
overall health. This should be a decision between the patient and physician, and the answer may be different for each of us. However, we should each ask the question as to whether there is a meaningful benefit to yet another booster. Remembering that the recent strains are less dangerous than the original ones. Also that all booster shots for covid are not equally effective nor designed to cover the same strains. Natural immunity, or the immunity conferred via a previous COVID-19
infection, provides superior protection against the virus when compared with vaccines. There has also been confusion between the concept of easy transmission and virulence. Virulence is the ability of the virus to make you sick while transmission is the ease with which it is spread. There are many viruses that spread easily but do not cause significant disease. The common cold virus being one of them. As the virus mutates the risk of serious infection changes to date mostly to milder disease. However, in patients with underlying risk factors the chance for serious disease remains higher than in the healthy population.

Symptoms of Covid should not be ignored.

If you are ill and test positive there are effective treatments (Paxlovid and Remdesivir) that can be prescribed by you physician and are effective if given early. So, the summary message is to take symptoms seriously so as to get
therapy. To realize that the shots will not prevent virus acquisition and that the use of boosters should be a decision made between the physician and patient.

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