Information about “boosting” your immune system through dietary and nutritional supplements is constantly pushed on us in essentially every sphere: whether it be on social media, an ad in your favorite magazine, or on the radio as you commute to work. It seems that if you aren’t adding a supplemental source of immunity-boosting vitamins to your daily diet, you are doing something wrong. As we age, providing our immune system with the best possible resources becomes extremely important. However, it can be hard to determine how to most effectively achieve a healthy immune system.
Vaccines vs. Viruses
One of the best ways we can protect ourselves against dangerous bacteria and harmful pathogens is through vaccination. In the wake of COVID-19, this has become somewhat of a controversial issue due to misinformation and stigma around inoculation, but science points us in the right direction.
Dr. Peter Hotez, an expert in vaccinology, explains that vaccines halt the replication of a virus in our bodies. Instead of simply mitigating existing symptoms as a traditional over-the-counter medicine would, a vaccine’s journey starts long before symptoms appear.
A vaccine teaches our bodies how to effectively ward off harmful pathogens such as those we see in the COVID-19 virus. Think of it in terms of a sports game. If you pit an inexperienced team against the strongest team in the nation, the inexperienced team will undoubtedly try its best, but it will likely end up losing to the strong and experienced team. Now, what if leading up to the game, the inexperienced team played a scrimmage against the strongest team every day for a year? This would dramatically increase their chances of winning the game because they now know the intricacies of the other team’s play. They know how the opposing team thinks and can predict their next move with surprising accuracy.
The same is true with our bodies. If our body is exposed to a virus in a small dose, such as through a vaccine, it can practice fighting it off and become better prepared for when a full exposure threatens our immune system.
An Added Boost
A “booster” immunization acts in the same way. It serves as a “review session” for your body on how best to fight off the virus. Dr. Hotez explains that “completing what you started” is the best method to fight off the virus, as the booster is essentially just a second dose of the vaccine. Unfortunately, this was not widely publicized, leading to mass confusion about the need for the booster.
“These were always three-dose vaccines,” explains Dr. Hotez on the idea that booster shots aren’t reliable or even necessary in maintaining our body’s immunity against COVID-19.
Immunity as We Age
As we age, our immune system needs more support. This is why the COVID-19 vaccines were prioritized for seniors first. As our immune system becomes weaker, it is essential to vaccinate against exposure.
“Our body is a repository of everything that has happened over our lifespan – both externally and internally – and all of that is manifested in our immune system. So, what happens as we get older is that our immune system is not as precise as it is when we’re younger; our response to infections is kind of a mess. That means we need this extra immunity to protect ourselves should we have an infection like younger people and survive it,” explains Dr. Carla Perissinotto of the University of California San Francisco medical school.
At Belmont Village, we prioritize our residents’ health and keeping our communities safe. We were among the first in the nation to fully vaccinate our resident population and workforce. Through vaccinations and education on COVID-19 protection options, Belmont Village is committed to helping you boost your immunity and stay safe in these uncertain times. To find a COVID-19 or flu vaccination location near you, visit vaccines.gov to learn more.