Your COVID-19 vaccine decision could impact my husband’s life — or protect someone who has cancer
My husband and many thousands like him may not be protected by vaccination, so their risk remains
While some folks have pondered whether they want to roll up their sleeve for a COVID-19 vaccine, no one in my household felt even a trace of uncertainty.
It wasn’t just a matter of wanting some normalcy after more than a year of avoiding movies and staying out of restaurants. My craving for a hot soak in a mineral spring has become nearly obsessive in this year of near-isolation.
When you’re scared, you welcome any action that might make that fear go away. And we’ve definitely been frightened by this pandemic.
My husband is immune-compromised by design. A decade ago, Beaux received an organ transplant after several years of devastating physical decline. Like all organ transplant patients, he takes medication to suppress his immune system so his body doesn’t reject the organ a stranger gave him.
That gift kept my family intact and we’ve tried to express gratitude by taking good care of him. We’ve become masters at being cautious, but he may still get sick if a stranger sneezes close by in a public place. He’s pretty defenseless against illnesses most of us shake off after a day or two. A winter cold flattens him for days or even weeks.
So we again find ourselves reliant to some extent on strangers to save him. And though he’s vulnerable to a lot of different things, COVID-19 terrifies us. His younger sister and his cousin both died when it sickened them. The pain is personal.
The hour that he became eligible to be vaccinated, we booked his appointment. When he got his second shot, we were relieved.
But here’s the thing: The vaccine doesn’t promise Beaux the same protection most adults have been told they can expect. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed what many of us had feared or at least wondered: The vaccine relies on an immune response that an impaired immune system is not guaranteed to generate adequately. And some medications used post-transplant also reduce effectiveness even more. While a follow-up study suggested transplant patients may get some protection after a second Moderna or Pfizer shot, it’s not believed to be enough to let transplant patients drop masks or social distancing, Johns Hopkins University reported.
Nor are transplant patients the only ones who remain vulnerable despite being vaccinated. The Washington Post reported last week on so many underlying conditions that could keep someone from benefiting from the vaccines, including those who have other reasons to be immune-compromised, people with cancers, people taking certain medications including prednisone. ... All sorts of people.
People you probably know.
I have no doubt they’d all like to take off their masks, too. And they’re not conflicted about doing whatever it takes to end this pandemic. But they’re at a greater risk of getting the virus, the end results unknown.
I know some people are on the fence about getting vaccinated because they believe the shot could hurt them more than the virus itself. Some just don’t like vaccinations in any form. It doesn’t help when people believe and help spread conspiracy theories. Have you heard the one about teeny tiny microchips?
None of those folks are apt to change their mind. But if you are someone who simply finds it inconvenient to take the time to get the shot or you don’t know where to get the vaccine or you don’t really see any personal benefit because you’re not in a high-risk category and think you’ll do just fine, please consider my husband and the estimated 3%-4% of the total population who are unlikely to benefit enough directly from a vaccine.
They could benefit from you — if you’re vaccinated and can’t accidentally make them sick.