Weighing the Risks and Benefits of COVID-19 Vaccines

Weighing the Risks and Benefits of COVID-19 Vaccines
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I never liked group projects in school. Whenever one was announced, I’d groan and silently hope for the best. But the scenario always played out the same: slackers dumping the work on everyone else.

I wanted to believe the pandemic would change behaviors. With the stakes so high, maybe everyone would do their part. But 10 months in, this is our ugly reality: 49 states across America have unchecked community spread of COVID-19.

So, I’m no longer taking a wait-and-see approach with vaccines like I originally had planned. I’ll be getting vaccinated as soon as I’m given the opportunity. Because, much like those teams in the past, I feel a responsibility to do all I can so that everyone can succeed.

The speed at which vaccines were developed has filled me with gratitude, respect, and pride for those involved. But inklings of concern still tug at me. 

After all, I have sarcoidosis, a disease that causes the immune system to go haywire for undetermined reasons. And the long-term side effects of these shots, if there are any, are still unknown. So is their safety and efficacy for immunocompromised and immunosuppressed populations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month.

So, I can relate to those unwilling to roll up their sleeves. But trust is building, with nearly 60% of Americans now on board with getting vaccinated against COVID-19, according to USA Today. I’m now one of them, because I believe the benefits outweigh the risks. 

I’m currently not on prednisone, which suppresses the immune system. With the unpredictability of my health, another course could become necessary in the future, which would cancel the advantage I currently have and add to my worries. 

Guarding against infection likely will become even dicier in the future. A variant strain of COVID-19 that seems to be more contagious has already made it to our shores. Getting individuals to forgo risky behaviors has been a problem throughout this crisis. I expect compliance to plummet drastically once people are emboldened with shots to protect themselves.

Acting sooner rather than later will also open up more job opportunities for me. Most importantly, I believe it will help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and save lives. 

I won’t be going into the process blindly. I plan to talk to my medical team and get my annual bloodwork done first. I’ll also continue monitoring for emerging issues and reaching out to those with firsthand experience. 

What I’ve been hearing so far is encouraging. My sister, Antonia, didn’t have any side effects after receiving the vaccine, and she didn’t even feel any pain when it was administered. Others reported feeling under the weather for a day or two. 

Yale Health has posted a helpful guide to who should and should not get the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, a fact sheet for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine can be read here, and a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet is available here.

***

Brighter side: We all could use a break from bad news right now. So, I’ll be closing my columns with a roundup of positivity until we are able to say goodbye to masks, hug our loved ones, and leave our homes without fear.

  • That’s what she said: A pop-up bar and restaurant inspired by the television show “The Office” arrives in Houston on Jan. 15. It will feature themed drinks, trivia, office karaoke, and of course, Dundie Awards. For info and tickets, go to dundermupplen.com.
  • Logging into nature: If winter weather is keeping you from nature, check out these two soothing replacements: WILDwatch Live provides twice-daily live streams of three-hour safaris in South Africa. And you can ask the guides questions on YouTube and Twitter. Unify Cosmos offers soothing sound clips from 50 locations around the world. All it takes is the twist of a virtual dial to choose your escape. The ability to listen to waves in the Dominican Republic, raindrops falling in Scotland, or the sounds of bustling Venice from a gondola ride is just a click away.

***

Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

Athena, a former journalist and Pennsylvania native, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 2002. She’s admittedly addicted to books, Marvel, and football. She tackles life with humor, passion and curiosity, and hopes to reach others through her writing.
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Athena, a former journalist and Pennsylvania native, was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 2002. She’s admittedly addicted to books, Marvel, and football. She tackles life with humor, passion and curiosity, and hopes to reach others through her writing.
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  • awareness month, COVID-19, gym, events, daylight saving time, Rare Disease Day, symptoms, victories, slowing down, doctor, health checklist, medical appointments, exercise, holidays, medicare open enrollment, healthy streak, medical marijuana, lung care, insecurities, employment, managing a disease

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24 comments

  1. Maria Tsvetkova says:

    My mum is diagnosed with Lung Sarcoidosis (an autoimmune disease) which has been inactive (in remission) for over 10 years. She is considered a key worker (a university professor), so she has been offered the Pfizer Coronavirus vaccine but we are not certain if it is safe to receive it given her condition. Could you please give us any insight on whether the vaccine is safe for her? Have there been people with her disease who have already received the vaccine?

    • Athena Merritt says:

      Hi, I don’t know anyone with sarcoidosis that has received it yet. I’ll be checking with my physicians before I go, I encourage your mother to do the same to address her concerns. I‘m sorry I don’t have the answers you’re seeking, but will post more info in the future if I get it.

      Also, here’s a link on the topic from the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research: https://www.stopsarcoidosis.org/covid-vaccine/

      Readers, if you have had the vaccine please leave a comment about your experience!

      • Jared Markham says:

        I have received my 2nd vaccine shot today 2/16/2021. I have stage 4 pulmonary Sarcoidosis so fae so good but will update Tomorrow

      • Bobbi Bishop says:

        Athena, I have had sarcoidosis for 12 years and it has mostly been dormant. I have it in my lymph nodes in my chest and I have had nerve damage in my ear from it. Many years ago, I had a subcutaneous granuloma grow into my wrist joint and it had to be removed because it was impinging on my ability to use my hand.

        I had my first COVID vaccine in January and from that vaccine, a 7-inch long and very thick granuloma has grown subcutaneously in my forearm from the wrist almost to the elbow. The vaccine sent me into an outrageous flare and I’m also having trouble walking because of the pain in my joints. I had the nurse inject the second vaccine into the other arm. I now have a subcutaneous granuloma growing on that forearm.

        I reported my reaction to the organization named on the back of the vaccine record card and to Moderna. No one has contacted me back. I’m waiting to see the doctor on March 5th. Until then, my sarcoidosis is going to continue to rage (and allow the granulomas grow bigger).

        I receive the sarcoidosis news e-mails so I thought maybe you might want to let sarcoidosis patients know of my experience. Personally, I do not recommend it for anyone who has had granulomas in the past or any skin reaction to sarcoidosis. This population needs to know about my reaction. I wish someone had told me!!! I wouldn’t have done it. Now I’m going to have to have surgery and probably go on steroids and methotrexate, which I’ve never had to use, ever.

        People need to know.

        • Athena Merritt says:

          Bobbi, thank you for sharing your experience with the vaccine. It’s shocking to hear. Please keep us posted. I hope you recover soon.

          Readers, please continue to leave comments if you have had the vaccine.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      UPDATE: The two approved COVID-19 vaccines “are expected to pose little risk to the rare disease community, including to patients with compromised immune systems or those participating in gene therapy studies.” The bigger question is whether they will be effective among this population. Here’s a link to the full article: https://alsnewstoday.com/news-posts/2021/01/20/covid-19-vaccines-pose-little-risk-to-rare-disease-patients-fda-cdc-officials-say/

  2. Margaret Ogier says:

    Hello I am Margaret and
    I have sarcoidosis.
    I had the 1st Covid vaccine on 7th January 2021. It was pfizer-Biotech. I had no noticeable signs after it.
    I had a scan in 1985
    And a very small round growth was seen in my right lung. I was healthy and asymptomatic.
    I had an X-Ray in 2002
    and several scans. I diagnosed my own condition by telling my Doctor.
    “I think I have sarcoidosis as I had a bump on my arm”
    He then walked me around to a Surgeon in his clinic. He looked at my arm and said “be here tomorrow morning for a biopsy”
    I then got the results a few days later.
    I had sarcoidosis. One of my many cousins also had sarcoidosis.
    2017 I had my Right upper lung lobe removed for a large cyst I asked about the sarcoid granuloma.
    5 weeks later I was called to the Hospital and told I had a large cancer with the cyst growing into it.
    11cm for the cancer and 8×8.5cm for the cyst. The granuloma was thought to have been the primary tumour. However since the cancer did not show on the cancer scans but the cyst did show. How would the granuloma show on an X-Ray.
    My lung was crushed but encapsulated which meant the cancer and cyst
    Was intact and the lymph nodes had NO Cancer but there was inflammation.
    I have been very lucky. I had no treatment due to the fact I no longer had the cancer and cyst which was growing for decades.
    They told me the cancer was so rare it was unknown. There was no treatment for it but I was cancer free.
    I have never ever smoked nor ever tried it.
    I have inflammation and calcium in my body.
    The only treatments I use
    are thyroxine for
    hypothyroid and eye drops for glaucoma.
    I am now retired from 48 years of work. Over forty years in a career which was never dull and always busy.
    I am still alive and following the safety rules of the pandemic. I am mobile, and don’t like staying in all the time.
    I haven’t been in a shop for months now.
    We are still in Tier 4 and new strains of virus now joined in.

    I have lived with sarcoidosis for a long time
    and never bothered with it and never used medication because I can’t. Steroids and anti inflammatory drugs are a danger to me. I reacted to them years ago.

    • Athena Merritt says:

      Margaret, thank you for sharing your experience with the vaccine and with sarcoidosis. It’s uplifting to hear the struggles you have (and continue to) overcome. It speaks to your strength. Hopefully vaccines will return normalcy to our lives soon.

      • Tammy Pope says:

        Thank you so much for this information! You sound amazingly brave. I want to get the vaccine. I have sarcoidosis of the lungs and I will be checked soon to see if I have ocular sarcoidosis. I’m scared but I miss my daughter and want to visit her, so your experience has given me hope! Thank you.

        • Athena Merritt says:

          I understand your fear. I just decided that I rather take my chances with the vaccine than with Covid. So far, everything I’m hearing about it from others is good. Please post about your experience if you get it. Thank you for commenting! Stay safe!

          • Tammy Pope says:

            Will do! I agree and have appointment to get cleared by my doctor. I may have kidney cancer again, waiting for the final diagnosis, but this just pushes me even more to want the vaccine. Thanks and I will update as soon as I can.

          • Athena Merritt says:

            My prayers are with you. It’s good to hear that you are staying on top of all aspects of your health, despite the pandemic. You are quite strong, and brave yourself. Stay safe.

  3. Michelle says:

    All, I had my second Moderna vaccine yesterday, and as with the first I feel like garbage – mild fever, body aches, soreness in my opposite shoulder joint plus the vaccine site. My doctors all told me to expect this, as did the tech who administered the shot. He told me to take pure aspirin or Tylenol, not ibuprophin.

    My sarcoidosis has been in remission since we started diagnosis, but I still have skin reactions(vitiligo, bumps). I’m a little alarmed at the gentleman who had the severe reaction, but this disease is a weird one. I decided seeing my family and friends is too important, plus I know if I contracted the disease it would be much worse (the one constant for me is I cannot fight off infections without heavy-duty antibiotics or steroids). I should be back to normal in a day or two.

  4. Michael says:

    Thank you to all of you I get my first tomorrow the 18th, was a lot worried about it but after reading all comments it’s gave me hope. Thank you

  5. Caleb Shah says:

    Hi, I am from singapore.
    I have Dinos with sarcoidosis
    In multiple organs heart, longse,
    Skin, muscle.
    irregular heartbeat
    Multiple times of Cardiac issues
    Which closest my heart to functions to 30%.
    I am not having CRTD Implanted
    And high medical for past 2 year.
    To bring down my immune system. And stay home.
    While I am going through this treatment. There comes COVID-19 😔,
    is it safe to take the vaccine?

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