Saddle River, New Jersey — The easing of COVID-19 restrictions has only added to the fear of 43-year-old Jennifer Trokhan, who is fully vaccinated yet wholly unprotected from the coronavirus because her immune system is suppressed by medicine she takes to prevent organ rejection.
“I take about 15 pills a day,” she said.
Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said he’s heard similar stories.
“I would stay up all night for months to help figure this out,” he said. “I’m hearing of transplant and other immunosuppressed people who got vaccinated and relaxed their safety behaviors and are now being admitted to hospitals and some are dying because they get COVID-19.”
Johns Hopkins tested the vaccine’s effectiveness on Trokhan. She received two shots but produced no antibodies.
“It was like a gut punch because you just think that was gonna make it all OK,” Trokhan said. “Not taking that medication’s just not an option for me.”
A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found 46% of 658 transplant patients who got two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine produced no COVID-19 antibodies.
“So this is really much more of a stark contrast than we had expected,” Segev said.
Centers for Disease and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has said that people with compromised immune systems should continue wearing face masks even after being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Trokhan got a third shot, but that failed too. Her best protection against COVID-19 is for everyone else to get vaccinated. “I hope if there are people out there who haven’t committed to being vaccinated, in my heart I hope that they reconsider,” she said.