Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the chronic illness community has been pushed aside - a group of acceptable casualties in the way of returning to normal life. I have been told by family, friends, and coworkers that it isn't "fair" that the rest of the world has to grind to a halt in order to protect people who are "already sick."
Those of us with chronic illness have had to fight to protect ourselves the entire pandemic, taking social distancing and mask wearing extremely seriously. Just like everyone, I was hopeful for a vaccine, but I knew there was a risk I'd be allergic to it. I have to read labels for every prescription I get, over the counter medicines, and have had issues with vaccines in the past (the flu vaccine).
"I have been told by family, friends, and coworkers that it isn't "fair" that the rest of the world has to grind to a halt in order to protect people who are "already sick." "
As you have likely seen on the news, the new Pfizer vaccine has caused a severe allergic reaction to two individuals with a history of anaphylaxis. From the New York Times:
The initial report on the British cases touched off alarm and confusion by advising that people who had ever had a “severe allergic reaction” to a food, drug or vaccine should not receive the vaccine. The nature of the reaction was not explained at first, leaving many people with allergies to food or bee stings wondering if the new vaccine would be safe for them.
But the regulators’ subsequent clarification specified that their advice applied to people who had ever gone into anaphylaxis. It urged people with a “history of serious allergies” to discuss it with their doctors “prior to getting the jab.”
Unfortunately for me, and likely a lot of people out there with severe allergies, this didn't appease my concerns. I have had anaphylactic reactions before. In fact, due to my rare disease, I have had severe reactions that are delayed, so having me wait in a doctor's office for 30 minutes will not necessarily guarantee I am safe. If I'm most vulnerable for complications if I get COVID-19, but I also can't take the vaccine safely, what am I supposed to do?
"If I'm most vulnerable for complications if I get COVID-19, but I also can't take the vaccine safely, what am I supposed to do?"
So what does this mean for me, and maybe for you? Am I advocating you don't receive the vaccine? No, definitely not. I am not a doctor, and I do believe Dr. Fauci when he says most people will likely be fine when they take this vaccine even if they have a history of severe allergic reactions. What I recommend most is that you talk with your doctor now to develop a plan. Understand what they think it would take for you to safely receive the vaccine, especially considering that there will be two required doses! I also recommend you continue to research the differences between the vaccines that are approved. Since there are multiple companies with multiple different vaccines, there is a possibility one will perform better in the allergic community than another.
In the meantime, let's all work together to take the virus seriously and its impacts on all. Like everyone, I'm experiencing pandemic fatigue, but now it is more important than ever to social distance and wear masks. Let's make sure everyone, including the most vulnerable communities, make it safely through this holiday season and the pandemic overall.