My Decision to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

As an IBD patient on a biologic, I have been immuno-compromised for years. I have made the choice to get the flu shot each year, to wear a mask when traveling before they were cool/required, and to take some extra cautions with my health and exposure.

I’m sure you can imagine those have significantly increased since we learned about COVID-19.

The COVID risks for IBD patients

When news reports of the pandemic first began surfacing in the US, there was mixed information presented about the risk for IBD patients. In fact, I remember my own GI doctor telling me that she wasn’t sure of many of the answers to my questions at the time.

While my city went into shelter-in-place, I was almost grateful for the added protection of staying at home. I constantly worried about acquiring (& wiping down) groceries and packages, if going for walks outside put me or my family at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, and what else I could do to ensure our safety.

As we learned more about the virus, and the way it has impacted IBD and other immunocompromised patients, we’ve learned that our risk isn’t necessarily that much more significant than others. We’ve learned that in patients who experience remission or mild disease, the risks of hospitalization and requirement of the ICU for infected individuals was lower than for those patients with severe or uncontrolled disease. We’ve learned that patients with additional comorbidities are at a higher risk for complications with COVID-19 than those without.

Cautiously optimistic about the vaccine

When talks of vaccines in clinical trials first arose, I felt cautiously optimistic but had no plans to be the first in line even when I would be able to receive the vaccine. I am such a data-driven science nerd, and I hated that there would be such limited data on patient response and long-term effects of the vaccine before it had FDA approval.

My opinions were impacted significantly when I received messages from both my current GI’s practice and from a larger, more specialized practice I’d been seen at previously. Both messages strongly urged IBD patients to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they were able.

Both messages aligned in the reasons they shared, and the logistics - they were recommending the vaccine for all patients, there were no restrictions based on IBD medications, and no change necessary based on the timing or dosing of IBD medications, both brands of the vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) are delivered via mRNA which degrades in a few days, and both required patients to receive two doses.

An opportunity to get the vaccine through work

Although both messages indicated that as an IBD patient, I’d be notified as soon as I was eligible to receive the vaccine in Illinois (phase 1b), another opportunity came my way.

Professionally, I work as a doula, supporting newborns and their families both in the hospital and at home. The agency I work for signed up my colleagues and I as healthcare workers eligible for the 1a phase, which meant that my ability to register for the vaccine presented itself much sooner than I had anticipated.

Why I decided to get the COVID vaccine

For me, the uncertainty of no long-term data was undermined by the uncertainty of contracting COVID either at work or in my daily life and the way it could affect me as an IBD patient. Furthermore, I was encouraged not just by my GI physician, but by all of my providers (including my Reproductive Endocrinologist and OB/GYN) to get the vaccine if I was able.

Because of this, I chose to register, and I received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the end of January 2021.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine on your mind? Will you register when you have the chance?

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