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Every January, people make numerous resolutions related to health and wellness such as eating less and exercising more. As we enter our second new year living (or dying) with the COVID virus, it may be that the best health and wellness resolution is to GET FULLY VACCINATED!

The Omicron variant

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is spreading throughout the United States like a wildfire. Consequently, a critically important New Year’s resolution is take action and seek the best protection possible. First and foremost, getting fully vaccinated offers the best protection considering the fact that the efficacy of the vaccination to prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death is well-documented. Once vaccinated, taking care of your health and wellness is also important. The human body is designed to defend against some (but not all) foreign bodies such as germs, bacteria, and viruses. A healthy immune system may foster a speedier recovery from illness. While you may not be able to improve an otherwise healthy immune system, you can take steps to maintain its health and integrity.

A Healthy Immune System

A healthy immune system protects us by creating a barrier that stops invaders or antigens, from entering the body. When an unwelcome invader slips through the barricade, the immune system responds by producing white blood cells and other chemicals and proteins that attack the foreign substances.


  2. Don’t Smoke – it is obvious why this tip is critically important
  3. Eat a Mediterranean Diet – high in fruits and vegetables, fish/seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes, extra virgin olive oil and minimal amounts of red meat and Drink Plenty of Water … and drink alcohol in moderation
  4. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight – body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is healthy. To calculate your BMI:
  5. Get Adequate Sleep – 8 hours is a good goal but if not possible, supplement with a daytime nap
  6. Practice Good Hygiene – Avoid infection by washing hands often and thoroughly. Flossing and brushing your teeth is also important.
  7. Prepare Foods Properly - clean meat/fish cutting surfaces and cook food thoroughly
  8. Limit stress and Be Positive - make time to reflect and meditate and, when possible, avoid people who “suck the oxygen out of the room!” YouTube “Progressive Muscle Relaxation” for easy to use relaxation techniques
  9. Be Active – physically and mentally – keep your body and mind moving and when possible spend time outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of NEPA
  10. Exercise – BUT DO NOT OVER EXERCISE! While exercise is an essential part of a healthy immune system, over exercise can weaken your immune system. In fact, many marathoners report a mild fever and flu-like symptoms after running the 26.2 mile race. 

Maintain a Healthy Immune System

To maintain a healthy immune system, physical activity is one of the most important factors in improving a lifestyle in a positive way. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days per week can greatly contribute to longevity. Most experts agree that moderation is important. If you overindulge in exercise you will be at greater risk for musculoskeletal injuries and may weaken your immune system. This is especially true for those who are newcomers. The goal is to gradually work into a fitness program and maintain it for life. 

Researchers have found that the benefits of regular physical activity are numerous. Some of the more important benefits are:

Sources: WebMD;

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body. Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit:

Innumerable benefits for both mom and baby …

Including passing on vaccine-generated antibodies for COVID-19

A patient recently asked me if it is safe to take the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or J&J COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy? While this is far outside my area of expertise, I took the opportunity to research the matter further and discuss the findings with local pediatricians, Dr Anders Nelson and Dr. Stanley Blondek. They are both strong supporters of vaccinating nursing mothers.   

COVID-19 Vaccine and Breastfeeding

According to the CDC, no safety concerns were found in animal studies: Studies in animals receiving a Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Johnson & Johnson (J&J)/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine before or during pregnancy found no safety concerns in pregnant animals or their babies. Human studies supported these findings.  In fact, in one study, vaccine-generated antibodies were also present in all umbilical cord blood and breast milk samples taken from the study, showing the transfer of antibodies from mothers to newborns.  

Moreover, in humans, in the largest study of its kind to date, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard have found the new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to be highly effective in producing antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in pregnant and lactating women. The study also demonstrated the vaccines confer protective immunity to newborns through breast milk and the placenta.

Multiple Benefits of Breastfeeding

Long before COVID-19, breastfeeding has always demonstrated many benefits for both mother and child. Expectant mothers typically do all they can to ensure their baby’s health. A wholesome diet, regular exercise and avoiding harmful habits like smoking are all important things a woman should do during pregnancy. However, there is something additional mothers can do AFTER their child’s birth that can be equally, if not more, important and has been around as long as human life itself… breastfeed! While far from new, it is has been rediscovered for it tremendous benefits and gaining popularity.

Nursing your baby immediately after birth helps solidify the bond between you and your baby. Moreover, the health benefits to baby begin right away. That’s because your breasts produce colostrum beginning during pregnancy and continuing through the early days of breastfeeding. Colostrum precedes breast milk and has plenty of antibodies to help keep your baby healthy. Colostrum is extremely easy to digest, and is therefore the perfect first food for your baby. Also, as the La Leche League (LLL) tells new mothers, “Colostrum has a laxative effect on the baby, helping him pass his early stools, which aids in the excretion of excess bilirubin and helps prevent jaundice.” Jaundice is common in newborns and is usually treated by placing the baby under special lights. LLL also points out that the concentration of immune factors is much higher in colostrum than in mature milk, which comes in after about two weeks.

The positive effects continue for both mother and baby as the child grows from newborn to infant. Breast-fed babies are, for example, less prone to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), an unexplained death of a healthy infant while sleeping. The peak incidence of SIDS occurs when a baby is about three months old. It is an unspeakable tragedy that affects entire families. While we must be very clear that breastfeeding is not a guarantee against SIDS, newer studies have shown that infants who were never breastfed may have two to three times the risk of dying of SIDS. Although the actual mechanism is unknown, some theories are that breastfeeding may provide defense against SIDS because it lowers a baby’s risk of infection through antibodies passed on by mom or because human milk is ideally equipped to nurture human brains -- and the brain controls sleep cycles.

Additional Benefits for Baby:

Additional Benefits for Mom:

Are there ever reasons why either mother or baby should not breastfeed? While extremely unusual, there are contraindications for breastfeeding. Mothers who must take certain medicines may be unable to nurse. There are also some conditions in newborns – some treatable – that may limit or prevent breastfeeding. Your physician (obstetrician/gynecologist or pediatrician) or midwife should be consulted before you take any medications, vitamins or herbals.


It is recommended that you exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months and continue for at least the first year. After that, it’s up to you. It’s also important to know that every baby is a unique individual. Don’t become alarmed if your child doesn’t seem to adhere to what the textbooks say. Instead, turn for support to some reliable and trustworthy: your physician, midwife and the La Leche League.

SOURCES: Le Leche League is an international nonprofit organization that distributes information on and promotes breastfeeding.; Centers for Disease Control (CDC); Harvard Gazette

Contributor:  Kathryn N Swatkowski, CNM …has been a Certified Nurse Midwife for 20 years, taking care of women throughout their life-span from adolescence through menopause

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquiries related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit:

I know that we are all tired of wearing masks. It can be hot, hard to breath and difficult to speak. People feel claustrophobic or confined behind them. Personally, I, too, feel exhausted after a full day in my mask. However, they continue to serve an important role in controlling the spread of COVID … even after we are vaccinated. Evidence has proven that wearing a mask reduces the risk of infection up to 89% and can block 70% of expelled droplets and particles (

Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been released for public use. Many are fearful or wary of them for a variety of reasons. A main concern is that they were “rushed to market.” Last week’s article dispelled many of the myths and concerns the general public is having with the vaccines. The two vaccines have been put under rigorous testing and analysis, more than most vaccines on the market today. Concerns about the vaccines are understandable, but negative outcomes have been few and far between. However, due to the timely release of the vaccines and our inability to examine long-term effectiveness, several factors suggest that wearing a mask will continue to be vital in our fight against COVID-19. Therefore, we will not be shedding our masks anytime soon.

It may take months to distribute the vaccine to the general public

The distribution of the vaccine requires that each vial be frozen at very cold and constant temperatures. As they thaw, they lose effectiveness. Many facilities, especially in the rural parts of the country, do not have the capabilities to properly store the vaccines under the ideal conditions. It will take time to make these vaccine storage facilities safe for COVID vaccines. But fear not, as the details and logistics improve as you read this column, the vaccine will be available to the general public soon!

The amount of time we wear a mask depends on how many people get vaccinated

It is estimated that we need 80% of the population to get vaccinated for the infectious rate to swing in our favor. This means that we need the general public to unite and work as one to fight the spread of the virus. Yes, it is scary taking a new vaccine that has no long-term data, however, with over 1.5 million dead from COVID-19 it seems this is the best option. As a community, we have to band together, trust our science and act in the best interest of all.  

Immunity of vaccine does not happen immediately

Do not have a false sense of the security immediately following your vaccination! Pfizer reports that “it takes a few weeks” and Moderna reports 2 weeks for people to build up an immunity of 50% after the first vaccine. The timeline repeats again after the second vaccine resulting in 95% immunity. During that time, you are still able to contract and spread COVID-19. The use of masks during this time is necessary to keep yourself and others safe.

It is unknown if people who are vaccinated can still spread the disease

The clinical trials conducted on the vaccines did not examine if the participants should continue to wear masks. The study only investigated if the individual built up enough antibodies to become immune themselves. Therefore, we do not know if the participants could still be carriers of the virus and continue to infect others that were not vaccinated.

Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and lead member of the COVID Task Force, recently reported that there is some evidence that the Moderna vaccine may provide a vaccinated individual protection against spreading the virus. However, more time and data are required to confirm these findings.

Not all are able to get vaccinated

It is important to remember that many immunosuppressed, autoimmune and pregnant individuals are not suitable for the vaccine. Until we are confident that vaccinated people are not “silent carriers” of the virus, the continued use of a mask is an important measure in protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities.

The duration of vaccine immunity is unknown

Until long-term data is available on the vaccines, we do not know how long our immune system will continue to produce antibodies. Antibodies protect us against the virus. This will be monitored as the distribution of the vaccine continues. The good news is, that we have observed individual’s immune system maintain antibodies up to six months in those who recovered from COVID-19. It is expected that the vaccine will at least mimic that immune system response.

2021 Is our year!

There is some light at the end of the tunnel … 2021 will be known as the year that the world took control of COVID-19! We will be shedding our face-protecting cloth companions soon enough. For now, we must wait, stay the course and continue to wear our mask, even after we are vaccinated. As time passes, we will know more about the vaccines and many of the uncertainties in this article will be answered. Until then, mask up, get vaccinated and be safe for yourself and others.

GUEST COLUMNIST: Paul Mackarey, Jr. DPT is clinic director at Mackarey & Mackarey Physical Therapy Consultants, LLC where he specializes in the prevention and treatment of neck and LBP.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next Week – LBP Part II of III

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit our website:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.