[COLUMN] Post-vax COVID-19

MORE than 5,800 individuals who have been fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV2 (corona) virus were infected with COVID-19 anyway (“breakthrough infections”), according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC). Of those, 396 required hospitalization and 74 of them died.

The effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNT (95 percent), Moderna (91 percent), and Johnson and Johnson (72 percent) vaccines still leave the first two with about 5-9 percent residual risk of potential infection, and for J&J about 28 percent. This means people who have been vaccinated do not have 100 percent protection or immunity from the SARS-CoV2 virus. This is the reality. And the other unknowns at this time is when, after the vaccination, will the vaccine provide immunity – 2 weeks, 4 weeks, two months; how much immunity is present after those intervals; and when the 95, 91, and 72 percent protection is achieved for the respective vaccines.

As for effective duration, the Pfizer-BioNT vaccine “remains highly effective after six months.” How long after this, is also not known since this vaccine is new and will need forward clinical observation to find out if the shots will be effective for a year or longer. The same is true with all other COVID-19 vaccines.
In the U.S., about 87 million (around 26 percent of the 332.5 million total population) have been fully vaccinated and more than 40 percent had received one shot.

According to the CDC, “breakthrough infections” are expected since the vaccines are not 100 percent effective, so more fully vaccinated people getting infected anyway will happen. Overall, this percentage (a fraction of 1 percent) of “breakthroughs is small.”

The CDC and major medical centers are studying and looking for clues (demographics, geographic, vaccine types, viral strain, health issues, etc.) among those fully vaccinated who still got infected, and those more prone to breakthrough infection.

As we have advocated in this column since the vaccination started, those who have been vaccinated should still take the precaution of wearing facemasks, doing social distancing, practicing frequent handwashing, and avoiding crowds, like those who have not gotten the shots yet, because this virus and its variants are new and the vaccines are also new, with so many unknowns about them.

Obviously, those “breakthroughs” occurred because those more than 5,800 fully vaccinated individuals let their guards down and were careless, thinking they had 100 percent immunity to SARS-CoV2 virus from the vaccine.

Getting as many people vaccinated in the country (in the world, for that matter) and not abandoning the original COVID-19 preventive guidelines until we achieve herd immunity (even when fully vaccinated) are the two best strategies to end this pandemic sooner. We must stick to medical science and not politics when dealing with a disease.

Medical pearls

Does aspirin protect us against cancer?

Yes, according to clinical studies conducted on patients taking daily aspirin (Acetylsalicylic Acid) for conditions like arthritis, etc., or among heart patients taking aspirin to thin their blood to prevent blood clots and blockages in the coronary (heart) arteries. The findings show that those taking daily dose of aspirin (as low as 81 mg a day) have almost 43% lesser risk in developing pancreatic cancer, compared to those who do not take aspirin daily. More investigation is underway to find out the explanation for this apparent link, and also if aspirin similarly protects us against colon cancer, other malignancies and against other conditions. Indeed, our longtime household friend, aspirin, for the usual headaches and pains, is truly an amazing wonder drug. Consult your physician before taking any medications.

How does wine protect our heart?

Wine, more especially the red variety, contains a chemical called Resveratrol, which has been found to be cardio-protective, among other benefits of moderate and disciplined drinking. The recommended “dose” is one to two glasses of red wine with dinner. Exactly what mechanism is at play to protect the heart when Resveratrol enters our circulation is not totally clear, but clinical investigations have shown that red wine is good for our health. The one particular red wine that is supposed to contain the highest level of Resveratrol is Pinot Noir (Oregon), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon. The caveat is, of course, moderation and discipline.

What is the cause of stomach ulcers?

In the past, the medical community thought that stomach ulcers were caused by hyperacidity (high acid content in the stomach) due to eating spicy food, alcohol ingestion, or even prolonged hunger. Today, we know better. The cause of majority of stomach ulcers is an infection, caused by H. pylori bug. When the researcher who discovered this initially presented his theory and findings to the world medical community, he was scorned and literally laughed at until various independent and extensive laboratory and clinical studies proved him right. He became a hero who had revolutionized the treatment of gastric ulcers, transforming this disease entity from a surgical illness to a medical condition manageable by pills, instead of by a knife in the operating room.

Why is the Viagra and nitrates combo fatal?

Viagra (Sildenafil citrate) is the very effective and safe “anti-impotent” pill prescribed for male erectile dysfunction, whose chemical action allows the veins in the penis to dilate and fill with more blood to cause engorgement and erection, thus enabling an individual to have successful penetration and intercourse. Nitrates are heart medications that also dilate blood vessels (arteries and veins in the heart and all over the body). When the blood vessels in the body are dilated “too much” (as the combination of Viagra and nitrates will do), the blood pressure of the person drops, uncontrollably leads to shock, and death in some patients.

Do we really need sleep?

Many times, we hear people (young and old) claiming that they do not need sleep, or that an hour or two was enough sleep for them. It is unhealthy not to have adequate sleep. While there is no magic number, having at least 8 hours of a restful sleep is considered good for the body. This brief “hibernation” gives our body time to recharge and repair itself, including our immune system. With inadequate sleep, our body functions less than optimal, our brain and other organs less efficient, and our disposition a bit cloudy and irritable.

Those who have enough restful sleep also feel and look better, and are more pleasant, positive and productive. On the other hand, sleeping more than 10 hours daily (except for babies and young children) does not confer extra benefits, and might even make one lazier and more sluggish. Lack of sleep increases the risk for accidents, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Public Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian and anti-graft foundation in the United States. Visit our websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com; Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com.

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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