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Neurological side effects of vaccines have been feared since the first inoculations for smallpox in the 1800s. Back then, there were reports of recently-vaccinated patients who developed what was (terrifyingly) referred to as “neuroparalytic events”. Despite monumental advancements in the past 200 years, neuro-inflammatory conditions (conditions in which one’s immune system attacks the nervous system) have still been spotted with increased incidence following many different vaccinations. These include such disconcerting conditions as Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), Mononeuritis Multiplex (MM), and Acute Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP), all of which just roll off the tongue. Now that my patients have as much access to medical literature as I do, I can’t pull off the reassuring “Don’t worry - it’s completely safe” routine without some Google-savvy skeptic calling bullshit and citing some Nature article about the incidence of Guillain-Barré following swine flu vaccines in the 70s.

However, saying that vaccination leads to a slight increase in incidence of these events is not the same as saying that vaccines cause these conditions. One simple factor (like a vaccine) isn’t sufficient to cause these complex anomalies. It’d be like saying that Hurricane Ike caused the 2008 recession. Although it probably didn’t help, it certainly wasn’t the cause. And, much like macroeconomics, biology is really, really complicated. At best, there is suggestion that vaccines can lead to a very small increase in one’s odds of developing certain rare conditions. That sentence isn’t as straightforward or exciting as “vaccines cause autism”, but it is a much more accurate depiction of the threat they pose.

In all, the odds of having a neurological event that results from a vaccine are around 0.1 in 100,000, or one-case-permillion-vaccines low. You are about 10 times more likely to get struck by lightning than to have a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine.

Now, some will say that even if the odds are low, any increase risk is bad. But that logic doesn’t account for the decrease in risk that the vaccine confers by protecting from severe Covid. Although most people who get Covid do fine, your odds of a bad outcome if you get covid without vaccination are orders of magnitude higher than 0.1 in 10000. Avoiding the vaccine because of the fear it will harm you is similar to refusing to wear a seatbelt while driving because of the possibility that could get into a crash where the seatbelt jams and traps you in while the car catches fire and you burn to death. While this could conceivably happen, your odds of surviving any given car ride are dramatically higher when you buckle up.

Vaccines are made in a variety of ways, but the basic idea behind all of them is presenting the immune system with some surrogate to dangerous pathogen that allows for development of immunologic memory - it introduces some piece of a bug so you can learn how to fight it quickly and efficiently in case you ever run into it. This piece could be a protein (like the “spike protein” present on the outside of ‘rona), or the instructions (mRNA) for the body to make its own copy of that protein and learn to fight it. In either case it requires your body to recognize a foreign something and respond appropriately to it - which is something it is already doing all of the time.

Your immune system appropriately deals with billions of foreign proteins that are introduced into your body every day, and it does so without going haywire and annihilating your organs or rewiring your neural connections. It is very, very good at its job. Our adaptive immune system has been around and evolving for over 500 million years. We’re not going to throw it off by injecting some tiny protein made by a bunch of nerds at Pfizer. People don’t need to trust the government, or pharmaceutical companies, or me. Just trust your biology. ∎ ROBERT PACE, MD

Neurologist and Director of Neuroimmunology, Memorial Institute for Neurosciences
 www.awarenessties.us/robert-pace Dr. Pace cares for and has expertise in a variety of neurologic conditions. He is passionate about demyelinating conditions of the central nervous system and holds a fellowship from the University of Michigan in clinical neuroimmunology and MS. Along with Dr. Aburashed and Dr. Cote, they make up the provider care team in the MS center at Memorial Healthcare Institute for Neuroscience. He has experience using a variety of immunomodulating and suppressing agents and also lectures nationally regarding treatment options in Multiple Sclerosis.

110 AWARENOW / THE MAYDAY EDITION

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AwareNow: Issue 16: The Mayday Edition  

In this issue, we present stories that speak to the needed conversation of awareness to action. For the causes we support that tie us all to...

AwareNow: Issue 16: The Mayday Edition  

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