COVID-19 Vaccines, Cancer & Priorities
——————————Guest Blog ——————————
When it comes to getting the new COVID-19 vaccines, who should come first? What’s more important, getting our economy back on track or protecting the most vulnerable? This conversation can quickly take us down the rabbit hole of anger and fear. While there is much to be said for getting our kids back in schools and making sure our frontline and essential workers can safely do their work, there is also the very real medical burden for those most vulnerable to be considered.
I have stage 4 lung cancer, currently on my sixth line of treatment and my neutrophils are consistently below “normal”. I’ve also had SBRT (stereotactic body radiation therapy) which has left a small area of scar tissue in my upper right lung. According to the CDC, I’m at a higher risk of disease severity and mortality if I were to get COVID-19. There is a sense of vulnerability that comes with any cancer diagnosis and since COVID-19 entered our sphere, the vulnerability felt by most cancer patients has intensified.
In the state of Colorado, cancer patients below the age of 65 have been bumped down to phase 1B.3. When I first heard that cancer patients would be inline to get our vaccines in 1B.2, the relief was palpable and I felt like our community was not only seen but our need validated. What I learned is that this process is fluid. FYI, it is important to know what your state has designated as priority groups and keep up with the potential changes.
Was I disappointed when I learned that I would have to wait even longer to get my COVID-19 vaccine? I was. Our first grandchild is due at the end of March and I was hoping to have had my vaccine by then. Plus, just like everyone else in my situation, I’m really tired of isolating. I’m not only bored, I find myself lacking the spark I used to have. My days typically look the same with household chores, walking, writing, dealing with side effects, etc. It’s bizarre to realize that my treatment days are also my social outings.
I applaud those in my lung cancer community who are advocating for an earlier designation for getting the vaccine in their states. This is an important issue for all cancer patients. I myself wrote a question for our governor at a virtual town hall meeting to answer. My question: “Cancer patients were recently bumped from 1B.2 status to 1B.3. Cancer patients are at a greater risk for severe COVID complications as well as increased risk of mortality, especially those with lung cancer. Could you please speak to this reasoning?” The town hall meeting came and went…I’m still waiting for an answer.
This link is an excellent source of information from cancer groups who are urging the CDC to prioritize cancer patients for the COVID-19 vaccination.