I’ve seen so many people assert quite confidently that the COVID vaccine is perfectly safe and an equal number of people quite confidently say that it is not at all safe. Who is right?
I have no idea.
Were you thinking I’d say something else? I do have a lot of opinions and I’m not usually shy at sharing them, but this is just too big for me to assert my own perspective. What I have done is follow my doctor’s advice and asked for her input every step of the way. What I have done is to weigh the risk/benefits as best I can to make the best decision possible. What I have done is considered the entire circumstances, not just myself, as I look at my choices. What I have done is consider reliable data and not anecdotal hype on both sides of the argument, as so many have done.
One concern that I’ve heard from a lot of people, which I believe is perfectly valid, is that several subsets of people did not participate in and/or were excluded from the trials that culminated in FDA approval of at least two (2) COVID vaccines in the US. Those of us with cancer are in that category, as well as children under the age of 16 and pregnant women. While I do realize the need to focus on different subsets of the population, being in an excluded subset has led to a lot of anxiety and concerns for many, including me.
After discussion with my doctor and others at my cancer center, I got the first dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine on January 12, 2021 at my cancer center, the Miami Cancer Institute. I’m in Florida and I know that in some states, the priorities are completely different. I’ve been amazed to see the various lists and differences in priorities, all relying on and applying the same data from the CDC. Mind-boggling as many of my friends also living with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) scramble to figure out how to get the vaccine.
One of the things that scared a lot of us was reading the data collected by Our World in Data, which demonstrated a 15% mortality rate of cancer patients within thirty (30) days of contracting COVID and 30% if hospitalized. Here’s screenshots of the study:
Here are some of the considerations that I discussed with my doctor in light of the fact that not only do I have active cancer, but I am also on medication that suppresses portions of my immune system:
- For any of us who are on medication that lowers our immune systems, there is the potential for adjusting dosages or timing of medication to ensure that our immune systems are functioning as best they can. For me, I carved out a special off week of Kisquali to hopefully ensure that my immune system is operating as best as possible. The issue, as I understand it, is that if our immune systems are not able to fully receive the messages from the mRNA in the vaccine, then the vaccine won’t be as effective. I am remaining off the medication that reduces my immune system for one week after administration of the vaccine and I will continue on it until a week before the next shot, after which I will remain off of it for one more week. This is all with my doctor’s oversight and confirmation.
- For any of us who have had lymph nodes removed as part of breast cancer treatment, I have been told that it is best to avoid the arm on the side where the lymph nodes were removed. Alternatively, the thigh or buttocks can be used for administration. At my cancer center, the room where the vaccine was administered did not have a private place available and so if you need to have your shot administered in a part of your body that is not accessible, you may need make other arrangements.
- Since the vaccine needs to be inside or intramuscular, it is important that the person administering the vaccine does not pinch the skin prior to administering the shot.
For me, the actual shot was a breeze — I didn’t even feel it puncture the skin! I remained in the observation area for 15 minutes following administration of the shot and then I went about my day. I’ve had some muscle aches in the arm where the vaccine was administered and bright red hands for a day or so after receiving the vaccine. I hear that the second shot can cause more side effects about 50% of the time (anecdotally). I’ll update everyone once I get that one.
The CDC has established a website for everyone who has gotten the vaccine to report their symptoms after receiving the vaccine. It’s easy to register and then you get a link each day to report your symptoms or lack thereof. The website is: https://vsafe.cdc.gov. I’ve been updating my experiences each day and will continue to do so as long as I am asked to share. The more people who provide their personal experiences, the more data the CDC will have to help guide the country as we move forward.
Finally, here are the videos I recorded and posted on social media educating as many people as possible about my own experiences and urging everyone to consider getting the vaccine!
Stay safe, everyone!!!