Doctors weigh in on COVID-19 vaccinations for immunocompromised people

Posted at 5:32 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 17:32:35-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Millions of people all over the country have rolled up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine, including people with weakened immune systems. Tampa Bay area health experts are sharing why the rest of the community getting vaccinated could help protect the vulnerable.

“Without that, who knows where I’d be right now,” said Patrick Nielsen.

Nielsen had a kidney transplant and now takes medication that compromises his immune system. Otherwise, he explains it could reject his kidney. Nielsen’s family has been on high alert throughout the pandemic.

“Even before it started getting really bad in the beginning, we followed [precautions] non-stop already because we knew even a common cold can land me in the hospital,” said Nielsen.

The CDC says immunocompromised people can get a COVID-19 vaccine, which Nielsen has already done. ABC Action News recently spoke to Tampa General Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Peggy Duggan.

“Patients who are in chemotherapy, patients who’ve had transplantations, or anyone who’s on an immunosuppressive drug, they’ll be vaccinated, but their response may not be as effective as it would be for you and me. So they’re counting on us,” said Duggan. “The way for them to feel safe is really for them to have the rest of us really knock this virus out of the population, and so we need to do that by our vaccination.”

Dr. Marissa Levine, a Professor of Public Health at the University of South Florida, explained they'd like to know more about the effectiveness of the vaccine in people who have immunocompromising conditions. Levine says it would be best if those people get vaccinated under the consultation of their doctor to make sure they’re doing everything to get the best response from the vaccine.

Dr. Levine also shared a message for the rest of the community.

“You’re vaccinating yourself first for your sake, but you’re doing it for everybody else around you, particularly those people you’re around a lot, the ones you care about the most,” said Levine.

Nielsen explained how other people getting the vaccine could help people like him.

“If I have a get-together and there’s a couple people who don’t want to have it, it’s hard to have them over, and if they are over, they can compromise people like me, elderly people, kids, people with cancer, anyone that has a very low, compromised immune system,” said Nielsen. “I understand if they don’t want to get it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it can help other people.”