VACCINES VS THERAPEUTICS: UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES
COVID-19 has dominated the world headlines for over 10 months now. We are bombarded with breaking news about a vaccine on the horizon to protect us all. There are also a number of therapeutics in development being tested for safety and ability to treat or even prevent COVID-19.
Ever since I have been working on a therapeutic for COVID-19, I’ve realized most people do not understand the difference in a vaccine and a therapeutic so I thought it would be helpful and timely to discuss each so that each of you can make informed and educated decisions about what may be best for you and your family.
First let’s start with some perspective about the effectiveness of vaccines of a well known virus, the seasonal influenza (flu).
CDC estimates that influenza was associated with more than 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 influenza season. We have had a flu vaccine for many decades and many people take the flu vaccine every year. During the 2018-2019 flu season 48.4% of adults over the age of 18 years received the flu vaccine. For adults ages of 65 or older, nearly 70% received the flu vaccine.
Yet over 10% of the US population contracted the flu and over 34,000 people died from the flu in 2018-2019. This occurs every year despite a vaccine.
While vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. However, in many years, the vaccine does not match the particular strain of flu for that year and in this case, the flu vaccine is not effective at all. You can expect the same with other vaccines as most viruses mutate and create different strains.
Since early 2020 in the US, there are now 14 million reported COVID-19 cases, approximately 810,000 hospitalized with 276,000 deaths. However, we know that many deaths are reported as COVID-19 death even though the person may have died with COVID-19 but not from COVID-19 so the numbers are likely over estimated.
So is a vaccine or therapeutic better for protection from COVID-19? Let’s look at each.
WHAT IS A VACCINE?
A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins.
The flu has been around for centuries and we have had a vaccine for flu for decades. COVID-19 is a new virus that we are still learning about. Historically, vaccines were made from injecting an inactivated virus into humans and allowed our immune system to develop antibodies against that particular virus.
This is how polio, smallpox and other vaccines were developed. However, the way vaccines are made today are completely different.
“Within the next month, messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—are likely to be some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States. mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine to protect against infectious diseases. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.” (copied directly from CDC website)
What this means is that mRNA vaccines are using the genetic material from the virus sequenced and created in a laboratory and then the genetic material is injected into the human body which then is taken up into cells so that cells can then signal our immune system to make an antibody to that sequence. Theoretically, this sounds promising but practically we just don’t have the data to know how safe and effective this approach may be, especially against a virus that we are still learning about.
WHAT IS A THERAPEUTIC?
A therapeutic, on the other hand, is a drug or method concerned with the treatment of disease and the action of remedial agents. We have a long history of development of therapeutics. Drugs are required to go through rigorous studies to show safety in humans.
Once safety is established, then drugs can be tested for their efficacy at treating a specific disease or condition. There are several therapeutics now approved for COVID-19 and these include remdesivir, dexamethasone, convalescent plasma and others. All of these drugs are re-purposed drugs originally developed for other diseases but found to be effective against COVID-19.
All have side effects in certain people. My 30 years of research and training in biochemistry and physiology has allowed the development of therapeutics based on addressing and correcting the underlying root cause of the disease.
Our current understanding of COVID-19 reveals that the lack of production of nitric oxide is what allows for virus infection and replication in humans and also explains illness of decreased oxygen delivery and the multi-systemic disease of COVID-19, including increased risks of heart attack, strokes, blood clotting disorders, kidney and pulmonary disease.
The best therapeutics are those that act to recapitulate (mimic) physiology. Provide the right molecule at the right time in the right place at the right dose. Since we are basically restoring the body’s production of a natural molecule, safety is not an issue when delivered at physiological doses. I feel confident in therapeutics utilizing these fundamentals of biochemistry and physiology.
A VACCINE OR A THERAPEUTIC IN THE BATTLE AGAINST COVID-19?
Unfortunately, when it comes to vaccines or therapeutics, there is not a one size fits all approach.
We are all different in our genetic makeup, in our individual health status and as a result, we will not all respond the same to a vaccine or a therapeutic. We must, however, ask ourselves what are the potential risks and weigh those against the potential benefits.
Historically, vaccines have been effective at combatting many infectious diseases. However, there are known risks of vaccines causing injuries in susceptible populations. Not all vaccines are effective and therefore do not provide any real benefit i.e. flu vaccines some years. We know even much less about mRNA vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccines being developed. We do not know anything about long term safety issues or consequences of injecting genetic material into humans.
Therapeutics have a broad range of risks and benefits in different populations.
So what do we do?
My advice is to improve your health to the extent your body can fight off the virus itself without getting sick. I’ve done this for over 20 years. I have not missed a day of work from illness in over 20 years. It’s not that I have not been exposed to viruses, it is rather, that my body recognizes the invading bug, attacks it and eradicates it before it has a chance to replicate and cause an infection. Below are some recommendations that have worked for me that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
- Stop using mouthwash, antacids and smoking
- Take 3000 mg Vit C, 5000 units Vit D and 50 mg zinc daily during flu and COVID-19 season
- Exercise and sweat. You have to exercise and stay fit. Get your heart rate up for at least 20 minutes per day to the point you perspire (removing toxins)
- Eat more green leafy vegetables or consider a clinically proven nitric oxide product to get your nitric oxide levels up to protect from virus infection
- Stay hydrated by drinking good clean water
- Get outside to breathe fresh air and get some sunlight
Getting and staying healthy is hard work but well worth the effort. It is easier to prevent disease than to treat disease. This requires a healthy immune system and good circulation to mobilize an immune response.
Being stagnant, wearing a mask most of the day leads to less oxygenation and can compromise your physical health. Being isolated and quarantined is not healthy for our emotional health. Also understand that recommendations are just that, recommendations. Take accountability for your own health and make informed and educated decisions that are best for you and your family.