New Year: 2022 as the Year of Immunity
We are going to have to deal with an invasive virus for the foreseeable future. Never has the world’s population been so acutely aware of a deadly non-living particle that wreaks havoc on the world’s people on a weekly basis. It’s a force to separate those who are immunologically protected from those who are not. Furthermore, the immune system, which I call the “biological soul,” determines who is to live or die.
I had been talking about biological warfare to emergency volunteers long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Now, the pandemic has brought the biowarfare issue to reality and made it a terrorist act more deadly than 9/11, from an invisible source. Now, we talk about viral replication and immunogenetics to explain the value of vaccination, appropriate behavior and the use of personal protective equipment in 2021. It seems like the COVID virus is living, because it appears when we least expect it in new forms, highly developed and often with new characteristics. It is as though it is alive and directs itself and us. The alpha, the delta and then a plethora of Greek lettered variants, until the recent appearance of Omicron.
There is no doubt that our immune systems are primed to deal with scourges like COVID. The immune system is our biological soul because it directs and protects every organ of the body like a spirit and is present to make sure that you live a long and secure life. The immune system is imperceptibly learning about new invaders every hour of the day in a kind of terrorist drill. It learns and is informed by your microbiomes (bowel, skin, lungs and others), collections of organisms without which the immune system would not work. From your birth, the biomes initially delivered to you by your mother during your voyage into the world to the present biomes determined by your hygiene, diet, stress and consumption of medicines. The immune system learns during every moment of the day by exposure to this or that minor or major antigen. Occasionally with something like the novel coronavirus, the immune system encounters a cunning foe that establishes a resistant presence to an immune system overwhelmed by its lack of recognition of the new invader. You can hear the T cells say, “this is not a drill.” Moreover, there is always the danger that a new resistance may develop as soon as the immune system learns its way. COVID is discreet in its passage to various organs and does its damage through inflammation in many organs, selective residence in areas like the human brain and the formation of small micro blood clots in the microscopic vessels that line the alveoli of the lung, those little sacks that provide exchange of oxygen. This is the way this efficient particle replicates and, in the process, kills its host.
As with every other kind of invasion by bacteria or parasites, the immune system can inform itself and overcome most infections. It all depends on the health of your biological soul, your genetic predisposition and the number of organ comorbidities like heart disease, lung disease, obesity or simply age. After infection, the response among humans who have recovered as measured by neutralizing antibody, or in rare cases measured cellular immunity, varies from individual to individual. As I looked for strong titered antibodies from the previously infected survivors to get some convalescent sera for use among the dying, I was struck by the inconsistency of the immune response in most patients who recovered from COVID. This was clearly proof that the immune response was different for all of us. Vaccination is needed for both the previously infected and those who wish to prevent initial infection, and both responses vary from individual to individual.
I am astonished by misinformation about the vaccine and its efficacy (largely the result of ignorance), but more importantly, I am stunned by the disinformation given by certain individuals (purposeful attempts at obfuscation) and groups on social media decrying the need for the “jab.” This disinformation has effects are on both young and old folks and is the basis for vaccine hesitancy and doubtless thousands of deaths. Excuses have abounded, such as the vaccine does not work because “it has been rushed, it affects fertility, it is really a chip that is injected into you to follow you, it is given to old people to eliminate them from the population or finally that the virus is a political hoax.” Since there have now been over 800,000 deaths in this country alone and only 61 percent of the population is vaccinated (the lowest among wealthy countries), this disinformation is very deadly. Because of vaccine hesitancy, families are fractured. The unvaccinated are prohibited from interacting with relatives over the holidays. Extra attention is given by hosts and hostesses to ensure that there are no super spreaders amongst them. A recent wedding of a cousin that resulted in 35 infected people with two guests hospitalized is a stark example of what can happen.
Naming this the “year of immunity” is a perfect substrate for many articles directed to each component of the healthy immune system. Topics such as the long-haul syndrome, breakthrough infections, the new appearance of autoimmunity in those after infection, the sudden appearance of new pain syndromes, the role of the brain and the importance of the biome are all items for future discussion. Moreover, scientists work daily on altering current vaccines by using molecular means to assure the individual that each variant is covered. And there is development of new medications to treat patients who have been infected and are ill. These medications are anti-viral in different ways: One is a nucleoside analogue which disrupts replication of the virus (Molnupiravir), and the other is an anti-viral proteinase inhibitor that acts like anti-HIV and Hepatitis C pills (Paxlovid). Both oral pills should be available in 2022 to prevent further death. While there is no substitute for the vaccine, there is hope for the hesitant.
Dr. Robert G. Lahita MD, PhD (aka “Dr. Bob”) is a renowned doctor and the Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health in Paterson, N.J. He is also the author of IMMUNITY STRONG: Boost Your Natural Healing Power and Live to 100, which is available for pre-order here.