A Dose of Hope for Cracking the COVID-19 Code

By Lori Hartwell

When we first learned about the Covid-19 pandemic, we knew there would be lots of uncertainties for people with compromised immune systems. As we patiently waited for scientists to develop a vaccine, we had hope that at some point we could return to a somewhat normal life.

And now that the vaccine is here, so is the initial data. Sadly, people who take immune suppressant drugs are not making antibodies as everyone had hoped. And therefore, unfortunately, those of us who have organ transplants, like a kidney for example, must continue to maintain pre-vaccine practices. We can’t produce the necessary Covid-19 antibodies because of the anti-rejection medication we must take to preserve the health of our transplanted organs.

I received the Moderna vaccine and had an antibody test that reads negative. It illustrates the point and confirms the fact that my body has not made the antibodies needed to keep me from getting the virus. Therefore, to stay safe, I have decided to act as if I had never been vaccinated. I will continue to mask, wash my hands regularly, social distance, and stay away from crowds.

I never anticipated that the immune suppressant drugs we take to keep our gift of life would also prevent us from making the antibodies we need to ward off the virus. But hope is on the horizon. The longer people live with the vaccine, the more time there is to study its effectiveness. And there still may be hope for those of us who are having a difficult time producing the antibodies necessary to protect us. Of course, if everyone were vaccinated, we could potentially put Covid-19 to rest for good since it needs a human host to survive and mutate.

According to an article recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a new study by the French National Authority for Health shows that “administration of a third dose of the BNT162b2 (Pfizer–BioNTech) vaccine to solid-organ transplant recipients significantly improved the immunogenicity of the vaccine, with no cases of Covid-19 reported in any of the patients. However, a large proportion of the patients remain at risk for Covid-19. Barrier measures should be maintained, and vaccination of the relatives of these patients should be encouraged.”

This is encouraging news given the circumstances and the new variants of the virus that are emerging. But for now, we must continue to stay safe while also keeping an eye on the latest developments in the Covid-19 vaccination studies.

I am confident that researchers will crack the code to ensure everyone’s safety. Until then, we all must do our part to keep our gift of life healthy. That may mean connecting a little longer on Zoom than we would like, but we must hang on to hope, and to our health.

Lori hartwell - Renal Support Network - PresidentLori Hartwell is the Founder & President of Renal Support Network (RSN) and the host of KidneyTalk™, a radio podcast show. Lori was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of two. In 1993 she founded RSN to instill “health, happiness and hope” into the lives of those affected by chronic kidney disease. Lori is also the author of the inspirational book Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness and is a four-time kidney transplant recipient.

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