Open Borders and Your Health

The borders are opening and in the words of the Queensland government that means very soon there will be no more Covid zero days. Governments closed borders and instigated lockdowns last year for several reasons. This was a new virus without a known cure and as there was no immunity to it, everyone was vulnerable to infection.
Without an effective treatment the initial strategy was to supress the spread until the hospital system was geared up to cope and hopefully an effective vaccine was developed.

The Vaccine Story So Far

The Australian government backed UQ research into a COVID vaccine that sadly was unsuitable for clinical use. It also arranged to manufacture AstraZenica onshore and ordered several more vaccines to support the roll out – Pfizer and Moderna (mRNA vaccines), and Novavax (a protein subunit vaccine) which is waiting TGA approval and may be used for boosters. The Johnson & Johnson viral vector vaccine was approved by the TGA but not required as it was similar to AstraZeneca which is in abundance. Ironically, despite the slow start of our vaccine roll out we are now one of the most COVID-19 vaccinated countries in the world. State governments have had time to prepare the health system and believe it is time to open the borders to an increasingly immunised community.

Who is at Risk with Open Borders?

Over time everyone will be exposed to COVID 19. The research shows that for most fully vaccinated people a COVID-19 infection will be mild and perhaps even asymptomatic and not spread as easily as an infection in an unvaccinated person. Severe illness will be largely confined to the unvaccinated and those with other underlying health conditions. Booster shots have been recommended to improve the immune response among the more vulnerable members of the population.

The question that begs to be asked is ‘What can I do to make me less susceptible to severe illness?’ It is up to the immune system to defeat the virus, which is why vaccination remains the first line. Next, addressing underlying health conditions and improving your own immunity is key.
For example research shows that people living with obesity (BMI over30) may have a greater risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, clinically severe disease, mechanical ventilation, ICU admission and mortality. It was found that people who died from COVID-19 were 1 1/2 times more likely to be obese than people who survived. It is speculated that it is the chronic diseases often associated with obesity that are responsible for these findings.

Managing Risk through Vaccination, Weight Management and Immune Support

Obesity sits in the category of modifiable lifestyle disease for most people, so there are measures that can be taken to reduce the impacts of obesity on COVID-19 complications and improve health in general. A healthy eating plan and exercise remain the mainstay of healthy weight management, along with guidance and support from a health professional to develop a suitable plan and monitor goals. Even modest weight loss of 5-10% has been found to have a strong impact on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, can lower blood pressure and reduce joint pain and depression and improve overall quality of life.

The usual comments about immune support are also relevant. There is much research on the importance of gut health for a healthy immune system and the role of a diverse, fresh, nutrient rich, mostly unprocessed-food diet with an abundance of prebiotic foods for a healthy microbiome. Specific nutrients and herbs can also support a healthy immune response. It is up to vaccination, diet, managing underlying health conditions and lifestyle factors to help minimise the consequences of COVID-19 illness. There is always support for those who don’t know where to start. So if you are one of the many who say to yourself, one day I will make my health and immunity a priority, that day should be today.

Selected References

Behavioural interventions for adults

COVID-19 vaccines

Impact of obesity on COVID-19 diagnosis and outcomes

People with Certain Medical Conditions

When is the Novavax vaccine coming to Australia? Will it be used for booster shots?