We seek perfection. Nadia Comaneci was the first gymnast awarded a perfect “10.0” in the Olympics, and Bo Derek was “10” in a 1979 movie. We might not be Nadia or Bo, but most of us still find comfort in our attempt to edge toward perfection.
COVID-19 vaccines are not perfect, yet we have at least made efforts to mitigate this viral scourge. Could vaccines be better? Of course.
Physiologically, the immune system is one of the least understood bodily functions. After receiving a vaccine, the body has a mechanism to make antibodies to the virus that quickly respond upon next exposure. Unfortunately, this is not always precise or predictable.
Despite massive population inoculations, there is criticism those getting jabbed will still “break through” and contract the illness. Here are reasons why.
Some illnesses, like diabetes, hypertension, and liver, lung, and kidney disease, can result in immunocompromise. Others could be receiving medication or treatment that suppresses antibody formation. This might occur when you are being treated for cancer with chemotherapy, or drugs for autoimmune diseases.
As well, poor nutrition and even overuse of alcohol or illicit drugs may play a role. Aging might make the immune system deficient.
Besides your body, there are other variables that might diminish antibody production. If the vaccine container was not maintained at certain temperatures, it might render the contents inactive. Also, should the injection be given using incorrect technique, it might not go into muscle tissue where it is usually absorbed.
(As a side note, should you have doubts, two weeks after your last COVID-19 inoculation, you can have a blood test to see if the vaccination made your body produce antibodies. As usual, insurance companies and Medicare frown on this testing as it is costly, and they may reject the claim, making you pay out of pocket. It is, though, psychologically reassuring to know the results of this test.)
Another reason for “breakthrough” after vaccination might be exposure to an overwhelming load of virus from a nearby sneeze or cough. This could inundate tissue (especially inhaled into the lungs) and may lead to rapid multiplication and disruption of healthy cells despite a quick vaccine-induced antibody response.
This is why common sense suggests adding an extra barrier like a mask could decrease large viral load exposure. Unfortunately, mask usage has been politicized. Enough said.
“Variants” are when the virus mutates. Should this occur too often, the existing vaccine may not recognize this new viral variation, and be less effective.
Lastly, in our efforts to achieve the perfect vaccine, can those who are inoculated be “stealth carriers” of the virus? One might contract the virus, but remain protected and asymptomatic because they have been vaccinated. Yet they could pass it on to others.
These questions and others evolve every day, so you should talk with your doctor for the best advice applied to you concerning “breakthrough.”
Most of us will not be in the Olympics or a movie like Nadia Comaneci and Bo Derek.
But with advancements in science, we will slowly edge ourselves toward that perfect “10.”
Dr. Gene Dorio is a Santa Clarita resident.