Cypress woman joins study to evaluate booster shots for immunocompromised

The Texas Medical Center says that hospitalizations of vaccinated people are mostly those who are immunocompromised.
The Texas Medical Center says that hospitalizations of vaccinated people are mostly those who are immunocompromised.

CYPRESS – The Texas Medical Center says that hospitalizations of vaccinated people are mostly those who are immunocompromised. That includes transplant recipients, people with HIV, and cancer patients.

The vaccine doesn’t work as well in those people who are taking drugs that suppress their immune system.

This month, Donna Tovalin from Cypress celebrated 17 years of living with a donated kidney, and because of that, she takes medications that suppress her immune system and keeps her body from rejecting that organ.

“The same medication that keeps me alive could possibly block the vaccine from working in me,” she said.

She joined a study with Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to help experts figure out how to keep patients like her safe from COVID when the vaccine can’t.

“I went to the lab and drew my blood, waited a few days, then got back my results. Negative for antibodies. It was a heartbreak,” she said.

While subsequent tests have shown she has some antibody protection, she has hardly a fraction of the immune response a normal person creates.

The good news is, it looks like patients with compromised immune systems will be among the first to receive a booster shot. The bad news is, there’s no official word on when that will be and what the correct dosage is for them.

So, while Donna said she will continue to wear a mask, she’s worried that with emerging variants and no booster shots available, she may be confined to a more isolated life forever.

“You know, after my transplant, I wore a mask for eight weeks and people stared at me because they always thought something was wrong with me. Nothing was wrong with me. I was protecting myself from them, and it’s kind of funny that after 17 years it’s all coming back because when I have my mask on people are wondering, ‘Oh what’s wrong with her? Is she not vaccinated?’ No, I am vaccinated, but I’m protecting myself from everything around me,” Tovalin explained.

Friday the Washington Post reported that the FDA may have information on booster shots for patients like Tovalin within days or weeks.

“Here I am, and here’s my family, fighting for my life, for all of our lives, and then there are people who won’t go get the shot and they can. That’s what’s frustrating,” Tovalin said.