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People’s Pharmacy: How will you know the COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 23, 2020

Greg Karlik, a senior paramedic, dilutes the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine with 1.8 ml of sodium chloride before agitating the mixture and then administering it as a shot to an EMS co-worker on Dec. 19 at Fire Station 1 in Ketchikan, Alaska.  (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News/AP)
Greg Karlik, a senior paramedic, dilutes the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine with 1.8 ml of sodium chloride before agitating the mixture and then administering it as a shot to an EMS co-worker on Dec. 19 at Fire Station 1 in Ketchikan, Alaska. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News/AP)
By Joe Graedon, M.S., </p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. King Features Syndicate

Q. I am wondering how an individual who is being vaccinated might determine if the vaccine they are receiving has been properly stored at the extreme cold temperature necessary. Maybe it will be impossible to know if the vaccine in some batches has been heat damaged in transit or storage. I want to get vaccinated, but I do wonder about the possibility of getting a “dud” vaccine.

A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued stringent guidelines for shipment and storage of COVID-19 vaccines. Hospitals and clinics that administer these vaccines are required to sign the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Agreement certifying that they have the necessary equipment and well-trained staff to comply with the guidelines.

For the first vaccine the Food and Drug Administration approved, that includes a “pharmaceutical grade” ultra-cold freezer and a continuous temperature monitoring device called a digital data logger. When the time comes for your vaccine, ask the health care facility to assure you that they have signed and are following the CDC’s COVID-19 agreement.

Q. My mother was deteriorating before our eyes, and we were very worried about her. I was not happy with the physician she was seeing and took her to mine for a consultation. My doctor took her off the bladder medicine Detrol and the blood pressure pill amlodipine immediately. Later, her cholesterol medication was changed, as well.

Her blood pressure stayed in an acceptable range with modification in her diet and adding a half hour of walking each day. Her brain fog (that mimicked dementia) lifted almost immediately. Her cholesterol also went to an acceptable level, and all the terrible side effects were gone. She is absolutely fine today. Please let your readers know that seniors might need special attention to their medications.

A. Drugs such as tolterodine (Detrol), which are often prescribed for bladder problems, have anticholinergic activity. This can cause brain fog in vulnerable people. We are pleased to learn that a re-evaluation of your mother’s medications is helping her do so much better.

Others who would like to learn more about drugs that are inappropriate for senior citizens may want to consult our eGuide to Drugs and Older People. It is available in the Health eGuides section of peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. I eat a lot of beets because I like them. I was surprised to read on your website that they can help control blood pressure. Another surprise was that antiseptic mouthwash might raise blood pressure.

I’ve been spending rather a lot on a mouthwash that is supposed to kill germs and keep my gums healthy. Maybe I can save some money by dropping that off my shopping list.

A. Maybe you could. Please check with your dentist.

Researchers have found that antiseptic mouthwash that disrupts the oral bacteria seems to raise blood pressure modestly (Free Radical Biology & Medicine, February 2013).

Apparently, many bacteria in our mouths turn nitrates from vegetables like beets or spinach into blood-pressure lowering nitrites. Killing healthy bacteria means less nitrite and nitric oxide in the blood stream. As a consequence, blood pressure might drift upward.

A recent review of studies concluded that “oral bacteria may play an important role in mediating the beneficial effects of nitrate-rich foods on blood pressure” (Nutrition Research Reviews, Dec. 7).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website peoplespharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”

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