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'Curing' COVID

Kristen Garland | Diabetes Educator | Registered Dieitian | T1D Academy

December 30, 2020

COVID-19 has turned the world as we know it upside-down. As of today in Canada, a total of ~571,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, with ~482,000 recoveries and ~15,400 deaths. In Ontario, we are breaking records and averaging 2,300 cases each day, quickly approaching the predicted daily cases of 6,000+ by the New Year.

After 10 long, lonely months of uncertainty, restrictions, isolation and loss, a glimmer of hope has finally arrived as Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved and more than 18,000 Canadians have already been vaccinated against this virus.

Throughout this pandemic, we have seen new heroes emerge amongst those who threaten the containment of the virus by refusing to follow restrictions put in place by the province. While still focussed on protecting our most vulnerable against anti-maskers and conspiracy theorists, we now face a familiar foe; the anti-vaxxers.

“Anti-vaxxers” are set in their ways, have a negative attitude towards vaccination, and are not swayed in any way by what the scientific evidence has to say. While these individuals are vocal about their beliefs in an attempt to sway the general public against vaccinations, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that anti-vaxxers actually represent only a small group of people who tout a variety of reasons for not accepting the process of vaccination.

There are often logical and admittedly justifiable personal reasons for not vaccinating, the approach of the anti-vaxxer is to consistently deny the science and historical efficacy of vaccination - sometimes even suggesting conspiracy theories – ‘cherry picking’ or twisting the available evidence with their personal perspectives to motivate widespread vaccine denial. A few popular anti-vaxxer strategies are listed, below:

The general public has typically only scratched the surface to educate themselves about the true benefits to vaccination, leaving them vulnerable to anti-vaxxers who are often highly educated and skilled at giving the false appearance of legitimate debate; planting a seed of hesitancy. When we don’t have all the facts, then hear someone bring up a point that makes sense and resonates with our own fears or experiences, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon without first seeking out clarification. Been there, done that.

Common arguments against vaccines include;

  • they are unnecessary; won’t save us

  • they exist to make ‘big pharma’ rich

  • they are a form of government control, and/or violate our freedom

  • they are unsafe, toxic, unnatural, cause autism, etc.

Common approaches by anti-vaxxers to sway public opinion include:

Buying into these arguments without taking the time to educate ourselves only adds to the problem and prolongs the solution. While no vaccination can be guaranteed, most known vaccine side effects are far less dangerous than the disease, itself. The consequences of enabling disease to run rampant far outweighs any possible risk associated with vaccination.

This is not meant to encourage anyone to challenge the beliefs of those strongly opposed to vaccines. Efforts to change an anti-vaxxers opinion are futile, but there is merit to educating and continuing evidence-based discussion with those who are still considering the pros and cons of being vaccinated. Knowledge is power.

Anyone who has every participated in scientific research knows and stands behind the efficacy and trustworthiness of study results. While COVID is a new challenge, vaccinating against such health threats has long been studied, trialed and evidenced. There is overwhelming evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccines throughout our history.

There is no denying that the COVID-19 vaccines were developed at unprecedented speeds, given the severity and impact on the global population. This adds to the doubt about their efficacy and safety, watering those seeds of hesitation. However, all vaccines are developed to work in partnership with your immune system to fight a specific component of a known virus, in this case a protein.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines went through strict trials and are expected to be 95% effective in building immunity against COVID-19. They have been carefully tested and repeatedly evaluated in a clinical setting. Health Canada authorizes and approves vaccines based on evidence provided specifically to prove their safety and efficacy. Being vaccinated will not always prevent the virus entirely, but will help your body to fight off the virus more easily so that its impact will be less severe and prevent transmission.

JDRF Canada reports that people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) are not at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but may experience more severe symptoms while trying to recover, particularly if they are of an advanced age or there are other health concerns or complications at play (heart disease, kidney disease, etc.). There have been reports of people with T1D who have experienced low blood sugars during COVID, but increased risk of ketones and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is always a concern during illness for people with T1D. Like the development of T1D, itself, it's unclear as to whether having diabetes causes worse outcomes or if the worse outcomes are due to people with diabetes having other medical issues that increase risks. Everyone experiences T1D differently, so taking extra precautions to avoid contracting COVID is critical for people with type 1 diabetes, especially if you struggle with blood sugar management.

According to Beyond Type 1, there have been no major side effects reported by anyone who has type 1 diabetes and has been given either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Some mild side effects including soreness at injection site, low-grade fever or headache and fatigue are typical with all vaccinations as the immune system is triggered into fight mode. It is important to stay hydrated and monitor blood sugars in the first 48 hours after receiving the vaccine, as you would follow in a typical sick day routine.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), those who have recovered from COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. Being vaccinated against COVID-19…

  • will not give you COVID-19

  • will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests

  • will not alter your DNA

  • can help prevent contracting COVID-19

To further support the prevention of the spread of COVID-19, follow the province-wide restrictions in place, stay home when you can, practice physical distancing, wear a mask when in public spaces, download the COVID alert app and stay up to date with the latest information available.

For more information about vaccines, visit Health Canada for details about vaccine development, trials, approval, and rollout.

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