COVID-19 complacency: A hard shift for the immunocompromised

Even with vaccines and antivirals, cancer patients and many others are still vulnerable to infection; some safety tips for this evolving pandemic

Photo by Jon Cherry / Getty Images

Stay up to date with boosters

“One of the things we’ve seen here is that uptake of boosters has been limited among our immunocompromised patients,” Liu said. “And that’s one of the strongest ways we can prevent complications of COVID as well as hospitalization and death. It’s a key measure to stay protected.”

“Evusheld is a medication that can help prevent COVID infection among those who may not mount as strong of an antibody response to vaccine. It provides an additional layer of protection.”

— Fred Hutch infectious disease expert Dr. Catherine Liu.

“Only 39.8% of 65+ year-olds are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines,” wrote Your Local Epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina in a recent post. “The best thing that this group can do is to fill the holes in their immunity walls by staying up to date [on vaccines and boosters] … We cannot rely on immune systems alone, especially people aged 50+.”

August 2022. Source: CDC COVID-19 response, Epidemiology Task Force, Surveillance and Analytics Team, Vaccine Breakthrough Unit.

Fend off COVID-19 with Evusheld

“Evusheld is a medication that can help prevent COVID infection among those who may not mount as strong of an antibody response to vaccine,” Liu said. “It provides an additional layer of protection, but it’s been challenging getting it to patients. There’s not a system-wide or nationwide effort of distribution, as with the vaccine efforts.”

‘The perfect scenario for immunocompromised people is to be fully vaxed, masked and to have Evusheld . . .

You can still live your life and spend time with family, you just need to be more conscious of that Swiss cheese effect and pay attention to avoid the holes or gaps in your layers.’

— Fred Hutch medical director of infection prevention, Dr. Steve Pergam

Infected? Fast action, testing help

Focus on the vulnerable

“But we don’t have great tools to say, ‘Here’s where you fit in,’” he stressed. “There are not hard and fast rules.”

Part of the Problem is Perception

Scientific American graphic from June 2022

Buttons, boosters, testing and tenacity

“We did a titer after my first booster and I had a good immune response so there was no need for Evusheld,” she said. “It’s probably time for another, but I’m holding off until they have the new booster for Omicron.”

“I wear a mask any time I’m inside and any time there are too many people around me with no air flow,” she said. “And it’s always a N95 or KN95. And when I’m on a plane, I don’t take my mask off just because I have a drink in my hand. I lower it to take a bite or a sip and then put it back on.”

“Nobody gets close to me inside unmasked unless they have tested,” Pflueger said. “And not like two days ago, but today — like within an hour of seeing me.”

Good prep for the future

Both scientists also acknowledged — especially in the wake of new public health emergencies — that even as this pandemic wanes, others loom.

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B. Roxy Rogers, photo courtesy of the author



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