Last Thursday afternoon, on my rheumatologist’s recommendation, I got my third Moderna vaccination. CDC guidance has been confusing of late regarding boosters, but for people who are immunocompromised, the advice has been fairly consistent to get a third shot. Just who qualifies as immunocompromised, however, is also subject to interpretation.
People who are receiving active cancer treatments, have received organ transplants, stem cell transplants, have advanced or untreated HIV infections, or are receiving high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that suppress the immune system are advised to get the third shot. In general, the CDC recommends that anyone “moderately or severely immunocompromised” get the booster now, because of Delta’s high contagiousness and questions about whether immunocompomised people have been able to mount a strong enough response to the first two doses.
Still, scleroderma was never on the initial list of conditions for the first round of vaccines back in the winter. So I wasn’t sure what would happen when I went to my local pharmacy to get my booster.
The first obstacle I ran into, however, wasn’t about whether I qualified. It was about what shots were offered. My local Walgreens, where I get all my prescriptions, only gives out Pfizer, as it turns out. So I went home and went online to see where Moderna shots were offered. The pharmacy at my favorite supermarket was listed as giving all three—Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. But when I got there, that day they were just giving J&J shots. So I called another Walgreens that my local store had mentioned, and, indeed, they had Moderna and were giving boosters.
Three’s a charm. Not only did they have the right vaccine for me, but also, their consent form had a category of “other” autoimmune diseases, so I could honestly check that box. I had told them that my rheumatologist recommended the booster, which helped, too.
As for the experience of getting my third shot, I did not have as strong a reaction as I did the second time: no Covid rash on my arm, less fatigue. I was able to get stuff done that evening and next day. However, my joints flared, once again, and my Reynaud’s went into high gear. My rheumatologist had told me to try to avoid analgesics, like ibuprofen, because there are some indications that they can suppress the immune response in the first few days. I waited as long as I could, but I really needed the meds for my joints or I wasn’t going to get any sleep.
By Saturday morning, I felt like myself again. It’s now been almost two weeks, and I’m feeling more confident that I’ve done what I could to protect myself and those around me. I still wear a mask everywhere when I am indoors or in an outdoor crowd. I suspect we’ll all need to be doing that for some time to come.
I hope you, too, Dear Reader, consult your specialists and determine when and if it makes sense for you to get a booster—or your initial dose(s), if you have not already. Together, we can beat this terrible pandemic. Together, we must.
Image: Ivan Diaz