Reduce the Side Effects of a Vaccination by Boosting Your Immune System

As of today, Tampa, has a “fully vaccinated” rate for COVID-19 of 40 percent for all ages — which includes 50 percent for ages 18 and above, and 71 percent for age 65 and above. However, what that means is about 60 percent of our local population isn’t vaccinated. By comparison, across the entire state, approximately 50 percent are fully vaccinated, while 53 percent have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

People have all sorts of reasons for not getting vaccinated, including lack of access to the vaccine, COVID-19 not being seen as a real threat, concern over the vaccine’s side-effects, an inherent lack of trust in vaccinations, misinformation about cost (it’s free), and lack of information about the vaccine and its long-term effects.

Whatever the reasons for getting vaccinated or choosing not to, Florida appears to be in line with vaccination rates across the country, where 46 percent are fully vaccinated, and 54 percent have received at least one dose. Hillsborough County currently lags about 6 percentage points behind the national average, while weekly vaccination rates are declining both nationally and in Florida.

Understanding the Purpose of Vaccines

Vaccines help our immune systems to identify and kill specific pathogens (disease-causing viruses and bacteria) before they have a chance to cause a serious infection. Traditional vaccines expose the immune system to dead or weakened viruses or bacteria (or identifiable parts of them) to trigger an immune response. The newer mRNA vaccines cause the body to produce substances that mimic identifiable parts of the virus or bacteria.

The immune response involves the production of antibodies, which attack and destroy the invading virus or bacteria, along with memory cells that remain in the body long after the immune response is over (how long after varies). If you’re exposed to the same pathogen in the future, the memory cells quickly identify it and trigger an immune response to quickly wipe out the invaders.

Another way to look at it is that vaccines trigger an immune response to prevent future infection without making us sick.

Recognizing the Potential Side Effects

Getting vaccinated or choosing not to, both have potential negative consequences. If you don’t get vaccinated, you’re at an increased risk of getting COVID-19, then spreading it. Symptoms range from unnoticeable to severe and include headache, inability to smell or taste anything (usually temporary), nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, fever, diarrhea, and breathing difficulties. Some symptoms may last a lifetime or result in death.

If you do get vaccinated, you may experience pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, then fatigue, headache, muscle aches, chills, fever, or nausea. Severe side effects — which are rare — include potentially life-threatening blood clots and allergic reactions. According to some reports, the second of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, such as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, produces worse side effects than the first. This is probably because the body’s immune system is still recovering from the first injection when the second injection is given.

Note: Adverse reactions from vaccines may occur for people who fit the following profiles:

  • You have a compromised immune system
  • You have severe allergies
  • The tissue in your body is carrying a heavy load of environmental toxins
  • You’re prone to gastrointestinal issues

If you’re thinking about getting vaccinated and are concerned that you may belong to one of these higher risk groups, we have a variety of saliva, urine, blood, and stool tests to evaluate your immune response, nutrient deficiencies, exposure to environmental toxins, and the microorganisms that live in your gut (which play a key role in your immune response).

Based on your test results, we can prescribe a personalized treatment protocol using natural supplements to strengthen your immune system and support your overall health.

Boosting Your Immune System to Reduce Side Effects

Vaccine side effects are usually due to a response from a weakened or compromised immune system. Boosting your immune system prior to receiving a vaccine can help prevent side effects, while at the same time increasing the vaccine’s effectiveness. A robust immune response produces more antibodies and memory cells to fight off any future exposure.

Boosting your immune system may be even more important if you’re planning to receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, which require two vaccinations given three to four weeks apart. Like we said, your immune system may still be recovering from the first vaccination when you receive the second one. But strengthening the immune system before each vaccination can prevent it from getting run down.

We recommend four supplements to take in the days or weeks prior to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Be sure to use quality supplements from reputable manufacturers. Call us if you need recommendations.

Note: If you choose not to get vaccinated, taking these supplements may be even more important to boost your immune system. They can improve your immune system’s ability to fight infection and reduce the severity of symptoms.


Vitamins A and C, zinc, magnesium, and selenium are some of the nutrients used for boosting your immune system. If you’re getting the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, folate (vitamin B9), niacin (vitamin B3), and vitamin C support DNA synthesis and repair.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been shown to be helpful in the efforts to prevent and treat COVID-19. In a recent study, 80 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had low levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in preventing viral infection, inhibits viral replication, supports healthy immune response and mitochondrial function (energy production within cells), and reduces inflammation.

For patients under our care whom we’ve cleared for vitamin D, we recommend taking 4,000 IU per day. More isn’t better. Taking too much vitamin D for too long can result in vitamin D toxicity, but this usually doesn’t occur unless you’re taking 60,000 IU for several months.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a key building block of glutathione, which is a powerful antioxidant — any compound that prevents oxidation, which damages your body’s cells. NAC and glutathione are also involved in many chemical reactions that help to detox your body. They also help to build DNA, and they support enzyme production and healthy immune function.

Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccines contain thimerosal or other preservatives, but replication of the COVID-19 vaccine adds to the body’s oxidative load, so increasing levels of NAC and glutathione is still helpful. Many studies also show that NAC and glutathione reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.

In coordination with your healthcare professional and their guidance and recommendation, we feel taking 600 mg to 900 mg daily of a quality NAC supplement for at least four weeks after your second vaccination dose is administered (same for those choosing the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine), should be considered. If you opt for taking glutathione instead of NAC, note that most glutathione supplements taken orally are not very helpful in boosting glutathione levels because they’re broken down in the stomach. Choose a liposomal glutathione supplement or receive glutathione supplementation intravenously or through inhalation from a qualified healthcare provider.

Probiotics and prebiotics

Beneficial microorganisms living in the gut support immune system health and function by inhibiting the growth of harmful gut bacteria and promoting the production of antibodies.

Probiotics are living microorganisms present in fermented foods (such as yogurt and sauerkraut) and available as supplements. The term “prebiotics” refers to various forms of fiber that promote the growth of healthy microorganisms in the gut.

We recommend taking a quality probiotic and prebiotic daily. Consider choosing a probiotic that contains the following three groups of microorganisms:

  • Lactobacillus
  • Saccharomyces Boulardii
  • Soil/spore-based probiotics

Although these types and strains of microorganisms are best for supporting immune function, it’s generally a good idea to have your stool tested to determine the specific strains in which you’re low.

Additional Precautions to Take Prior to Receiving Any Vaccination

Here are a few additional precautions to consider before getting vaccinated:

  • Get plenty of rest prior to and the day after receiving the injection. Consider scheduling the vaccine the day before a day off from work, school, or other obligations.
  • Address any issues with constipation, so your body can detox. You may need to drink more water and consume more fiber (which you’ll already be doing if you take a prebiotic).
  • Eat healthy in the days before receiving the vaccine. Avoid sugar, processed foods, dairy, and artificial sweeteners, all of which can contribute to inflammation and some of which can contribute to constipation.
  • Reschedule if you’re ill. Don’t get vaccinated when your body is already fighting an infection.

If you’d like more specific guidance or testing prior to receiving a vaccination for you or a family member, contact our Tampa functional medicine clinic today.


Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about vaccinations is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.