With more than 25 million documented cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 430,000 Americans dead from the disease, there are rays of sunshine peeking through the dark clouds. Less than one year after coronavirus was first detected in this country, there are now two highly protective mRNA vaccines available, though in limited supply, and two additional vaccines on the horizon, though with lower efficacy. Disappointingly, the lack of preparation, planning and funding for vaccine distribution by the federal government over the past six months has created a difficut scenario for many who are clamoring to be vaccinated. Hopefully, with a recently announced federal distribution plan in the works and more vaccine coming soon, many more people will be vaccinated in the next few months.
Recently, I released a short video addressing the sporadic, unverified reports of the mRNA vaccines causing three people to develop facial swelling who had injectable facial fillers anywhere from two weeks to six months before receiving their coronavirus vaccination. None of the reactions was scientifically proven to be caused by the vaccine, nor were they dangerous or severe and all resolved either with no treatment at all or with oral steroids and antihistamines. Considering that more than 30 million people have already been vaccinated, and considering the popularity of facial fillers in the general population, these few unverified reports do not concern me at all. Though I have injected myself several times with facial fillers, I had zero vaccine hesitancy and was excited to receive my second inoculation with the Moderna vaccine last week. For me, it was simply a non-issue. I want to look good and I want to be protected from COVID -19. These two desires are perfectly compatible.
By now, you may have heard public health officials tell us that until everyone in the world is vaccinated, none of us is safe. On its face, this may not make sense to you since you may feel perfectly protected once you have received two doses of the current mRNA vaccines from either Pfizer or Moderna, but unfortunately this is not the case. First of all, science has yet to prove that once vaccinated, you cannot spread the virus as an asymptomatic carrier. But perhaps more concerning, until most of the world’s population has been vaccinated, there will continue to be a large amount of circulating virus that will find susceptible hosts which will lead to more genetic mutations and thus more unique variants of the coronavirus. With each new constellation of mutations, there is the potential for the virus to become more contagious, more symptomatic and/or more lethal and more able to evade the immunity that current vaccines and previous infections provide!
Unfortunately, we are seeing just that. A new, more contagious variant from England has emerged and is expected to be the dominant strain in the US in the coming months. Additionally, viral strains from South Africa and Brazil have emerged that appear to have acquired several mutations in the 3-dimensonal structure of the spike protein that makes the efficacy of the immunity one develops from current vaccines or previous infection less protective.
So even if you have had your vaccines (and if not, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can) or have recovered from COVID-19, please continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, avoid indoor crowds and use common sense. These public health measures are still highly effective at reducing your risk of getting sick or infecting others if you happen to be a coronavirus carrier.
Finally, I am excited to introduce a new hyaluronic acid (HA) injectable dermal filler called RHA2, which Kelly Houmand, PA and I have started to use in selected lip filler cases for those who want the most natural feeling lips. RHA2 is manufactured using an innovative process designed to improve the stretch of this HA filler, which is particularly resilient even under repeated harsh stretch conditions such as the lips, which move dramatically throughout the day. Natural appearing, beautiful lips are one of the most eye-catching facial features. Kelly and I are both experts at creating lip enhancement that is both undetectable and appropriate for your particular facial structure. With RHA2, we can now not only make your lips look great but they will feel totally normal and move naturally.
If you are interested in seeing the video I posted regarding the risk of facial swelling from facial fillers done before or after getting a coronavirus vaccine click on the link:
Stay Healthy, Stay Beautiful!
Seth A. Yellin, MD, FACS
Founder & Director, Marietta Facial Plastic Surgery, Laser & Aesthetics Center