As a care home worker, I was at the top of the COVID-19 vaccine priority list. It was good news, but I was still worried.
I’m a Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia patient, am currently on a trial for immunotherapy, have previously been through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and have had a stem cell transplant; needless to say my immune response isn’t the greatest. My past two flu vaccines have both put me in hospital, and the lack of statistics about how the COVID-19 vaccine would affect people with lowered immune systems made me concerned. I didn’t want to end up in hospital again.
I spoke to my clinician who explained that the vaccine hadn’t been widely tested on people with lowered immune systems, so he couldn’t say one way or another if I would indeed have a bad reaction needing urgent medical treatment. Although this wasn’t initially reassuring, he went on to explain that although he couldn’t predict what effect the vaccine would have on me, he could predict what might happen if I, a clinically extremely vulnerable person, caught COVID-19.
It was a real weighing up of risks and benefit but, in the end, I realised the risk of getting COVID-19 was far greater than that posed by the vaccine.
I was nervous when I joined my colleagues in getting the vaccine – I even packed a bag ready to go to hospital if my body’s reaction was like it had been for the flu jab. But out of the 35 of us who had the vaccine, only one of us felt poorly afterwards. After a few days’ rest, they felt well again.
As for me, I had a bit of a sore arm and was a bit tired for a few days afterward, but other than that I haven’t been ill and certainly haven’t been near a hospital! I’m really glad I took the decision to get immunised. I don’t know how much protection the vaccine will offer me versus someone whose immune system isn’t compromised, but I know that it will be better than no protection whatsoever.
Of course, I’m still shielding. As we’ve been telling our care home residents: to keep infections down and protect yourself and those around you, it’s really important to keep to your government’s guidance around social distancing and shielding, even after you’re vaccinated.
I wanted to share my vaccination story, as I’ve experienced the same anxiety that many in the WM community have. As one of the first people to have the vaccine, there weren’t any positive stories for me to read, which only heightened my worry. I hope that by sharing a positive experience, I’ll offer you the reassurance I didn’t have.