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Victoria from The Butterfly Effect has written guest posts for my website previously as a thyroid patient advocate. Since then, she has started embarking on her dream of becoming a Naturopathic Doctor.
There seems to be a misconception that anyone who supports natural medicine or functional medicine must be against thyroid patients getting the COVID vaccine. As a future naturopathic medicine student, Victoria wanted to speak about why she will be opting for the vaccine, despite assumptions that as a future naturopathic doctor, she should be against it.
Written by Victoria Gasparini
To get the vaccine, or not to get the vaccine?
A question so many of us have had in light of recent events with the approval of several different vaccinations targeting the COVID-19 virus.
I have written this post, not to make you feel bad for making your own decisions and not to convince you to do something you don’t want to do, but rather to explain to you why I made the personal decision to get vaccinated, from the perspective of a future naturopathic medical student and as someone who suffers from an autoimmune disorder (Hashimoto’s), in which the term “antibodies” is all too familiar.
Vaccines: The Controversial Topic
Vaccines are a controversial topic. There is almost always an argumentative tone intertwined within the words of someone for or against vaccines. I believe the best approach to vaccine conversations is a gentle reminder that we are all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts.
While hesitancy is a normal, human response to something “new”, perpetuating falsehoods about vaccinations is incredibly harmful, and preys on vulnerable people who desperately associate opinions with truth, in an effort to do what they believe is best for their health and perhaps the health of their families.
A Lack of Information Literacy is Also a Pandemic
Prior to getting into Naturopathic medicine, I obtained my bachelor’s degree in a program that deals with three main concepts: validity of information, research and policy. Though I made a 180 degree turn into a medical field, the content I learned in my undergrad is invaluable in an era plagued by a lack of information literacy.
What I mean by this, is that with the development of social media and privatised news, we are in a very dangerous position of acquiring and spreading information that is not only false, but detrimental to the health and wellbeing of those around us. This goes for people on both sides of the vaccine “argument”.
What I’m saying is: know your sources.
Before you share a post on facebook, find credible sources to confirm that the information is true. (Nothing is more embarrassing than having all your facebook posts and shares say “false information” on them, something that I see all too often these days.)
A big problem today is that once you share one false post, your algorithm will start to show you more false information. All the sudden, real information is being drowned out, and you’re left not knowing what’s true and what’s not. The scary part is, sometimes this misinformation comes from otherwise credible sources, like medical professionals and experts on social media. I really do believe that a lack of information literacy has encouraged such a divisive response to this pandemic, and especially to this vaccine.
5 Reasons Why I am Getting the COVID-19 Vaccination
- The long-term effects of COVID-19 are mostly unknown
If you are feeling hesitant, scared or frustrated about getting vaccinated, know that you are not alone. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to get a vaccine and there would be no COVID-19 at all. The idea of getting this vaccine was not exciting for me, at first, so don’t feel bad if you feel this way too.
Many people say “we don’t have enough information on the long term impacts of this vaccine” and I want to address this comment.
Let me be clear, we do not have enough information on the long term effects of COVID-19, either.
We saw an increase in chronic fatigue syndrome after the SARS epidemic of the 2000’s, and we already know the intricate link between viral infections and autoimmune disease. We know that many patients who survive COVID-19 have permanent scarring on their lungs, and patients also report shortness of breath months after overcoming this infection. With regards to thyroid health, newer research is suggesting a link between the severe suppression of TSH post-covid infection.
This virus does not “boost” your immune system. It doesn’t make your immune system stronger, regardless of what that person on Facebook told you. It can cause permanent damage, long lasting implications and even death, especially in vulnerable populations. It can also make it harder for us to fight infections in the future.
- The vaccine is effective, safe and well-studied
My first thought when this vaccine was created was, “that was way too quick”. After a little bit of research, and an educational talk with my ND, I learned that mRNA vaccines have been in the works for over 15 years.
The ingredients are all listed on the CDC’s website, and to settle the fears of many, because of the temperature of these vaccines and the type of vaccine, there was no need for the use of heavy metals, cells of fetal tissue, or any other interesting, crummy ingredients, like mercury, aluminium and formaldehyde.
- The naturopathic oath says, “do no harm”
I am about to enter a field of medicine, where I will be putting the health of others in my hands. As a naturopathic medical student and then doctor, there is an oath that I will take. One critical part of that oath states, “do no harm”. From an ethical standpoint, this serves to remind physicians that it is their ultimate obligation to act in the best interest of their patients. Though I do not have my own patients yet, I hold this oath dear to my heart. I feel it is my obligation to protect the health of those around me, and to me, that means getting vaccinated and contributing to the end of this pandemic.
Yes, as of right now, it’s true that you can still contract and even spread COVID-19 after being vaccinated, however the CDC has reported the duration of the infection seems to be much shorter, therefore less time to potentially spread the illness. We also need to achieve herd immunity, and I feel that it’s my responsibility as an informed citizen, and soon-to-be medical student, to contribute to ending this pandemic through these means.
- I have never had a problem with vaccines in the past
Okay, so I had someone recently write to me and say, “but what if a vaccine is the reason you have an autoimmune disease?” I can tell you, it is not.
Autoimmunity is triggered by SEVERAL factors, including a blend of genetics, environmental exposures, infection, food intolerances and the state of the gut. It is more likely that an infection could have been a part of that “perfect storm” of triggers, than it would be that my mandatory vaccines in the 7th grade gave me an autoimmune disease. Needless to say, I have never reacted badly to a vaccine.
The risk of vaccinations worsening autoimmunity are far less than the risk that COVID-19 poses for those of us with wonky immune function.
I think it’s important to understand that our immune system makes antibodies all the time to all sorts of exposures, not just to self-tissue like in the case of autoimmune disease. This vaccine provides the information the body needs to create antibodies against the COVID-19 spike protein, so that if we were to come into contact with the virus, our immune system would know how to fight it.
The information regarding autoimmunity and COVID-19 vaccination remains vague. There’s nothing to suggest that it’s unsafe or will worsen your condition, but there’s also nothing to say that it definitely won’t (like most things in science, there’s always a “what if”). That is why getting this vaccine is a personal choice. I am not judging those who make informed decisions about their health, and never will. The key is being informed. Talk to a trusted medical professional who knows your health history, read journals and peer reviewed articles regarding the vaccine information and learn how mRNA vaccines work from real, credible sources, not from a blog or from your distant cousin Susan, who shares chronic misinformation on Facebook.
- For my own peace of mind.
When I had this conversation with my doctor she said to me, “the stress of getting COVID-19, spreading it to someone you love, or getting very sick yourself, is far worse for your health than this vaccine will ever be.” That stuck with me. Getting vaccinated will ultimately give me peace of mind and allow me to function without being scared of what the future could hold.
How Naturopathic Medicine Plays A Role in Ending this Pandemic
As someone in the field of naturopathic medicine, I value prevention, promotion of health and the discovery of the fundamental roots of disease. With regards to COVID-19, prevention is mostly through public health measures.
A naturopathic approach to this virus involves following public health guidelines to reduce the spread of infection, while also promoting individual health so that those who do become infected have the tools to fight this infection. This would include using science-based interventions like supplementation, an anti-inflammatory diet (as a large portion of COVID-19 deaths are related to inflammation and metabolic dysfunction), the use of some pharmaceuticals for those who require them, and vaccines. It absolutely takes more than a vaccine to end this pandemic, but by using this approach, preventing spread and promoting health, I think we can truly conquer this pandemic once and for all.
I am not here to argue about vaccines, but rather to share my experience with you. Whether we agree or disagree, we all share one common goal: ending this pandemic and returning to a sense of normalcy.
I wish you all health & vitality.
Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism, Victoria Gasparini explores the reality of living with chronic illness through her blog, The Butterfly Effect. Victoria seeks to spread awareness of autoimmunity and writes to inspire chronically ill patents to live wholesome lives beyond their health struggles.
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Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes authoring books, writing articles, blogging and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a board member for The American College of Thyroidology and The WEGO Health Patient Leader Advisory Board. Rachel has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, ThyroidChange and many more. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and has received multiple awards and recognitions for her work and dedication. She has authored two books: ‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate‘ and ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism‘. Rachel is British, but advocates for thyroid patients on a global scale.