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Feeling Left Behind Because I'm Allergic to the COVID-19 Vaccine

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In the last five years, I have tried a few new vaccines that have come out for mast cell patients, always hoping they are the “game-changer” for my problems. I trial them like I do everything, with lots of pre-medication and very slowly. I got a tiny dose of the first one I hoped would cure me, but within minutes I went into anaphylaxis.

A few years later, a new vaccine came out that showed some promise in the mast cell world. Knowing that healing will not come without pushing myself forward, I of course was willing to give it a go. I pre-medicated and got half of the dose. An hour later, high fives and hugs abounded as the small reaction I had was manageable and certainly worth dealing with if it meant healing would happen.

The next vaccine was the full dose, and I spiraled after, my body reminding me that less is more. Unwilling to give up, we tried again at a half dose a few more times before my reactions increased and were no longer managed by my pre-medications. Without any positive impacts on my overall health, the benefit no longer outweighed the risk. I was back to square one.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that when I met with my allergist this week, without asking, I was told I cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine yet. I was oddly disappointed, despite knowing deep down this would be the case. It was dangerous for so many reasons: my incredible propensity to react, needing it done in a controlled hospital setting which is clearly not currently possible, and because I couldn’t get it in small doses. That isn’t how this vaccine works.

As we enter month 11 since the pandemic began, I am struggling to find hope. Every day I open my eyes, it feels like the one before and I know what awaits: endless hours of work calls, too many meltdowns from my son and endless anxiety about getting sick. And this is before even turning on the news. But my story is like everyone else’s right now — life is just plain hard on every level and we are all doing our best to get through this.

A shining light for the world is the vaccine and a chance at eradicating this virus. I too am thrilled people are being vaccinated and we are on our way to a safer future. But as I watch many friends and relatives schedule their appointments and get their vaccines, our shared reality is slipping away and I can see how easily I will be left behind.

With cases on the rise, my stress and anxiety about getting COVID-19 has never been higher, and yet I watch as those who have been vaccinated feel relief from these fears. I know the COVID-19 vaccine is not instantly going to end the pandemic, nor does it allow us to stop taking precautions like wearing masks or social distancing. But it does mean if you acquire it, you have a much less likely chance of it killing you. And that is a pretty amazing protective shield to wear.

I do trust in time that herd immunity will be reached so those like me, the more vulnerable and rare, will be protected. But I also know that will take time. I face extra weeks and months of waiting after the world opens back up. I’ll be forced to continue to weigh my risks of exposure against living freely. And most of all, I’ll still have no control over my reality as my post-pandemic life relies on those who can get vaccinated doing so.

So for now, I am simply trying to stay in gratitude. I’m grateful to each person who gets this vaccine. Please know you are not just protecting yourself, but you will one day allow those like me in the rare community to also live safely in this world. And I remind myself that while it may at times feel like I am being left behind, I can take comfort in knowing we all still share our collective hope for a healthier tomorrow.

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Originally published: January 17, 2021
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