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What to do After Vaccination: 6 Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

What to do after vaccination, especially since we can still get infected? You can ensure your immune system stays strong through six easy ways!

A partial view of a smiling woman with a band aid on her arm and a face mask hanging around her neck.

With COVID-19 and its variants showing no signs of disappearing, some of us might be wondering, what to do after vaccination when we can still get infected by the virus?  

Indeed, you can test positive even after getting vaccinated, but that doesn’t mean the vaccines aren’t effective. If you are tested positive for COVID-19, being vaccinated shields you against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and possible fatality. Moreover, vaccines protect those who are more susceptible to the virus, such as the immunocompromised and the elderly. 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) website states that it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to keep ourselves and our community healthy. In addition to getting vaccinated, we must continue to comply with health protocols and maintain a healthy immune system. 

Keeping your immunity strong doesn’t have to be complicated. This article will describe some simple ways you can do to support your immune system and how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help.

Knowing Your Vaccines  

Here’s how vaccines affect your immune system, based on types: 

Viral vector vaccines  

This vaccine is made from a different, harmless virus to deliver the SARS-CoV-2 genetic material. When the vaccine enters the body, the genetic material will produce a viral protein, which will trigger a response from the immune system. The response will then build an immune memory, which will help the body fight the virus. 

Vectored vaccines approved in Malaysia: AstraZeneca, Janssen and CanSino. 

mRNA vaccines  

This vaccine aims to train the immune system. It contains a segment of genetic material (RNA) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Cells in the body use the genetic material to create the protein that the immune system will recognise. This way, the immune system will be able to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the future. 

mRNA vaccines approved in Malaysia: Pfizer, Moderna. 

Inactivated vaccines  

This vaccine carries the inactive SARS-CoV-2 virus. It’s weak enough not to cause an infection, yet it can still trigger a response in our immune system. 

Inactivated vaccines approved in Malaysia: Sinovac, Bharat Biotech, Sinopharm. 

A close-up shot of columns of ampoules, labelled with “VACCINE - Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2”.
Learn what to do after vaccination and understand how vaccines work.

What to do After Vaccination: How to Maintain a Healthy Immune System 

Doing these things can strengthen your immunity against COVID-19: 

1. Get Your booster shot when you can 

The efficacy of most vaccines would wane over time. The same can be said about COVID-19 vaccines, especially since the virus mutates and new variants have emerged. Booster shots have been shown to elevate antibodies against the virus. 

Mixing and matching types of vaccines are not only safe but also advisable. This strategy maximises their effectiveness and provides a solution to vaccine shortages.

2. Balance your qi 

In TCM, qi or a person’s energy flow, plays a huge role in their overall wellbeing, including the state of their immunity. The more imbalanced your qi is, the sicker you can get.

There are several ways to nourish qi. One of them is by consuming herbs like lingzhi (灵芝) , which has been recognised to replenish qi and stimulate the immune system. Other herbs that may do wonders for qi are American ginseng (xi yang shen, 西洋参), Astragalus root (huang qi, 黃芪), Codonopsis root (jing xuan dang shen, 精选党参) and Chinese yam (shan yao, 山药) . 

3. Eat immune-friendly meals 

A diet and supplements containing probiotics are immune-friendly. One of the benefits of probiotics is that it promotes the production of antibodies and balances the good bacteria, which in turn boosts your immune system. Yoghurt, for example, is a good source of probiotics.

Vitamins A and C are excellent for your immune system as well. Vitamin A’s role as an anti-inflammatory agent gives it its immunity-enhancing properties. It is available in vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, bell peppers and sweet potatoes. Manuka honey, another anti-inflammatory food, can also help defend our body against infections.

A study on Vitamin C and immune function conducted by researchers in University of Otago, New Zealand and Bayer found that vitamin C is able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections by increasing immune cell functions. Examples of vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin C are broccoli, kiwi and citrus fruits.

Another study conducted in 2020 by researchers in India, Iran and the US discovered that garlic works amazingly as a preventive measure against COVID-19. Garlic owes this ability to its immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. 

Similarly, TCM recommends consuming fruits and vegetables in addition to warm water during meals. Avoid too many greasy, sweet, chilled and raw foods that may block qi.

A mother and daughter making freshly-squeezed orange juice in the kitchen.
What to do after vaccination? Stay healthy by consuming Vitamin C!

4. Get Active 

Exercise has always been essential for health, but a 2020 study by researchers from Federal University of Fronteira Sul, has further emphasised its importance in battling COVID-19. The study found that exercise could increase immune vigilance and improve immune competence. Other benefits of exercise, like reducing weight and decreasing oxidative stress, also help the body’s immune response against the COVID-19.

If you are not used to exercising, start with brisk walking, jogging and rope-skipping. Another relaxing form of exercise is tai chi, which is believed to generate, store and reinforce qi

5. Get enough rest 

A lack of sleep has been proven to reduce immunity. Research indicates that our immune memory is formed during bedtime. This means that our immune system’s ability to respond to viruses will be strengthened when we have enough sleep. 

Getting high-quality sleep is not only about having enough rest; it’s also about going to bed on time. TCM believes that waking and sleeping according to the meridian clock is vital to keep the body performing properly. Based on the meridian clock, the ideal time to sleep is from 11pm to 5am.

6. Reduce stress factors 

Our central nervous system, endocrine system and immune system constantly interact. As a result, stress can cause inflammation, leading to infectious illnesses and autoimmune diseases.

Exercise releases endorphins, which can relieve stress. A treatment that stimulates endorphins is acupuncture, which is also thought to encourage better flow of qi in the body. Additionally, TCM suggests consuming some Chinese herbs with a calming effect, such as American ginseng, lingzhi, lily bulb (bai he, 百合) and Poria mushroom (fu ling, 茯苓).

So, you’ve been vaccinated and perhaps boosted. And now you’re wondering what to do after vaccination. You need to ensure your immune system stays strong. Simple things like eating well, exercising, sleeping properly and de-stressing can help your body’s natural resistance against illnesses. Doing so will not only keep you safe and healthy but also protect the people around us from COVID-19. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “5 Ways to Maintain Your Immune System After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine”, which first appeared on the All Things Health website

References

  1. World Health Organization. 2022. COVID-19 advice for the public: Getting vaccinated  [Accessed 15 April 2022] 
  2. British Society for Immunology. 2020. Types of vaccines for COVID-19 [Accessed 15 April 2022] 
  3. Journal of Virology. 2022. Are COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Needed? The Science behind Boosters [Accessed 15 April 2022] 
  4. Pubmed. 2021. COVID-19 vaccines mix-and-match: The concept, the efficacy and the doubts  [Accessed 15 April 2022] 
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2017. Vitamin C and Immune Function  [Accessed 15 April 2022] 
  6. Pubmed. 2002. Vitamin A as an anti-inflammatory agent [ [Accessed 15 April 2022]
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2020. The effects of allium sativum on immunity within the scope of COVID-19 infection  [Accessed 15 April 2022]
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2020. Physical exercise as a tool to help the immune system against COVID-19: an integrative review of the current literature  [Accessed 15 April 2022]
  9. SpringerLink. 2019. The Impact of Everyday Stressors on the Immune System and Health  [Accessed 15 April 2022]

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