Your questions about safety and efficacy, answered

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Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

Most people deciding to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can support their choice with clinical trial data, which has demonstrated the safety and efficacy of both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. But people suffering from autoimmune conditions, particularly those on immune-suppressing medications, are facing the decision of whether to receive a shot without the benefit of robust evidence-based guidance, as they were excluded from the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and AstraZeneca clinical trials.

In the absence of clinical trial data, how should people with autoimmune conditions approach the risk/benefit analysis of getting vaccinated? Here’s what several experts had to say.

Autoimmunity is a big tent

Autoimmune (literally “self-immune”) disease happens when the immune system turns its aggression on the body’s own healthy cells and tissues. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are more than 100 known autoimmune conditions. Some, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease are relatively common, while others are rare and hard to diagnose. …

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We humans are having a tough year.

But we aren’t alone in our susceptibility to pandemics. They unfold around us all the time, in trees and birds and frogs.

Chronic Wasting Disease spreads when healthy and infected deer share food or water, as deer do.

Phocine Distemper Virus is a highly transmissible respiratory virus that causes mass mortality in seals. It spreads when they gather in the spring for breeding season, as seals do.

Nosema Disease, which severely weakens or wipes out bee colonies, is spread when healthy bees clean infected bees’ waste inside their hives, as bees do.

SARS-CoV-2 spreads among humans when they share space and time, as humans do. …

Inflammation can cause more damage than it prevents

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Bats have evolved to coexist with thousands of viruses, largely by controlling inflammation

“When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

I recently finished writing a deeply researched magazine feature on the immune system.

And it’s got me thinking about inflammation. It’s a process our bodies use to contain a threat, but left unchecked it has the potential to damage or even kill the body it means to protect. …

The search for purpose when purpose seems lost

We call work one’s occupation. Millions of us are newly, suddenly unoccupied, with nowhere to go, nothing to do. At least five of my upcoming freelance jobs were canceled. Like Times Square, my calendar abruptly went from jam-packed to eerily barren.

The latest figures are that somewhere north of 30 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past six weeks or so. This loss of work is not just an economic crisis; it’s an existential one. A brick wall has arrested our forward motion.

We are not designed to be passive. We’re designed to form bricks and lay them down, make something where there was nothing, move the human project forward. Take work away, and pleasure loses its luster. Take work away, and existence itself becomes work — a constant, itchy quest for worth, purpose, and meaning. …

A helpful game plan to get through it

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Photo: Roos Koole/Getty Images

On March 18, a couple of weeks before his 40th birthday, Fil Vocasek spiked a fever. He knows the exact date of onset because the single, asthmatic, Manhattan-based graphic designer had started taking his temperature every day as the number of New York Covid-19 cases began ticking upward. “I have a delicate respiratory system to begin with, and I thought chances were good that I’d get it,” he says. “I always get whatever’s going around.”

When his symptoms began, he called his regular doctor, who told him that New York City was only testing patients who went to the emergency room, so he should assume he was positive for Covid-19 and self-isolate. …

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It’s two days after Super Tuesday, and the dust is still settling. I’m seeing so much finger pointing on social media, so much angst, so much certainty that this way or that way spells certain doom and failure. Everyone is a mini-strategist, a mini-analyst, trying to argue their way backward from their gut feelings and pretend they’re working with objective truth.

I want to start with the feelings. Just name and acknowledge the feelings, as I understand them from my admittedly limited perspective.

Bernie voters feel that the stakes are at crisis level and nothing short of a revolution will do. They feel disenfranchised, locked out of power and economic security, and deeply afraid of the consequences of climate change, the status quo for healthcare, and oligarchic control of our government They fear for their future, their children’s future, and the future of American democracy, where money is eclipsing the will of the people on everything from gun control to the environment. They look at Biden and see more of the same policies and approaches that got us here, and feel despair. …

Seeking connection, truth, and worth in the attention economy

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A stubborn frog has taken up residence in my throat. It resists eviction no matter how vigorously I rattle the walls of my larynx. I’ve been walking around the house clearing my throat over and over for weeks, annoying myself, surely annoying my husband. He tells me he can hear me, reliable as a metronome, through the walls of the room in our house where he meditates. (I credit his meditation practice with the uncritical tone with which he reports this.)

The other day, I stopped in a shop with a display of aromatherapy blends supposedly formulated to support each of the chakras. Looking at the blue orb that represented the throat chakra hovering over the illustrated human’s neck on the display graphic, it occurred to me that this throat frog might be metaphysical in nature. I read the brief description of the fifth chakra, also known as Vishuddha, on the display: “The throat chakra is the center of creativity, self-expression and communication, according to Ayurveda, the ancient healing art of India.” …

As far as admonitions go, they don’t get much more straightforward. Know Thyself. Two words; a command. A prerequisite to grad-level assignments such as To thine own self be true and Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Investigating ourselves is a project we’re primed for. We don’t need to be asked twice.

And so we set off in search of mirrors. We project ourselves onto each other to see how we bounce back. We broadcast our images to the world and refresh our screens, scooping “likes” into our laps like poker chips (we’ve yet to figure out if we can redeem them for anything with real value, but the dopamine hit of adding to the plastic pile suffices for now.) We look inward and, stymied, look back out for clues, scanning reality for our reflections. …

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Odds are good that I don’t have to convince you of the value of a robust content strategy. It’s a key feature of every halfway decent marketing plan out there, whether for sole proprietors, small businesses, or major lifestyle brands.

Developing and distributing compelling stories and insights keeps your brand front-of-mind for your audience, builds trust and communication, and establishes you and/or your company as a thought leader in your field. Providing authentic value to your readers in a likeable, sincere voice is the surest way to create engagement and turn readers into fans and fans into customers.

Indeed: What else is there in your marketing toolkit that can inspire such feelings of familiarity, gratitude, and loyalty in your target audience? (I’m here to tell you, it’s not your coupons.) …

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The Creative Process in 3 Simple, Mystical Steps

I was speaking on a panel about the creative process last week, and someone asked about where my ideas come from, how I face the terror of the blank page and blinking cursor.

I‘ve been stewing on that question, and the larger notion of creative process, for a week.

There’s a reason that Mad Men, which did a pretty good job at depicting the messiness of the creative process, ends with Don Draper seemingly walking away from everything, having a transformative experience, absorbing it in stillness while meditating on the beach, and then boom: he’s hit by the greatest idea of his career. …


Mo Perry

Health and wellness journalist and essayist; bylines in The Atlantic, Experience Life, Elemental, Catapult, MNMO. Co-founder of

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